Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son Hun Manet’s Khmer New Year trip to the U.S. got off to a rough start over the weekend, with his bodyguards and Cambodian-American protesters allegedly getting into a shoving match that had to be stopped by local police.
Lieutenant General Manet was dogged by protests against his plans to attend new year parties around the U.S., but in a Voice of America interview on Saturday he struck a conciliatory tone and said he would only go where invited.
“The people have invited me to join the celebration of the New Year here, so I came to join it…and to inform them about our country’s issue like land [and] migration,” Lt. Gen. Manet told VOA.
“I don’t force people to believe what we inform them,” he added. “The people have the right to protest whether they are in California, Lowell, Boston or in Cambodia. I cannot…order that they do it or not.”
Yet on Saturday night, a fracas broke out in front of the LaLun Cambodian restaurant in Long Beach, California, where Lt. Gen. Manet was dining, according to videos uploaded on Sunday to the social media page of a protester at the scene, which do not show the fight itself.
The page alleges that police intervened and used pepper spray to break up protesters and Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards, whom the user accuses of striking a U.S. citizen on the head during the scuffle.
One video, uploaded to the “Cambodian Global Society” page, shows men in suits tearing at the eyes, with the caption: “Polices used pepper [s]pray to clear out Hun Manet’s security guards after they pushed and hurts one white American tried to serve paper to Hun Manet.”
Another shows an interview conducted after the apparent fracas with the caucasian man, who gave his name only as “Paul” and said he was there to serve someone legal papers and claims not to have been involved in the protest.
“I was serving a subpoena, and I got thrown down by the security and I hit my head,” the man said.
“When it first happened, when I lay down, I couldn’t move for 30 seconds. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs, I was paralyzed.”
Asked whether he had anything to do with the protest against Lt. Gen. Manet, the man says: “I have nothing to do with it. I had papers that I was trying to serve,” leading the crowd to ask to see the papers.
“I can’t show you. I really can’t. I’ve really probably said too much,” the man says.
In a post to his own Facebook page on Sunday afternoon, Lt. Gen. Manet made no mention of the scuffle and thanked his Cambodian-American supporters who turned out to the Khmer New Year dinner.
“Despite the threat from about 100 plus protesters, we had over 400 people turned up to join our New Year dinner together in Long Beach, California; in order to celebrate our unity together,” he wrote.