The prime minister’s eldest son Hun Manet on Wednesday downplayed the latest batch of protests he faced on a foreign goodwill tour, questioning the protesters’ motives and praising his own restraint in the face of criticism.
Speaking at Phnom Penh airport upon his arrival home after a 13-day visit to Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday morning, the head of the CPP’s foreign outreach committee cast the protesters as rabble-rousers bent on fracturing a peaceful visit.
“When I went to meet people abroad, I went without an inciteful message,” he said. “I went to build relationships with people abroad.”
“I did not bring people to demonstrate and I did not bring bodyguards to beat anyone,” Lieutenant General Manet said. The comment appeared to refer to accusations by process server Paul Hayes that he was dropped on his head by Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards as he attempted to serve a subpoena to their boss in Long Beach, California, in April.
Lt. Gen. Manet also faced protests in Long Beach on his visit there. On his latest junket, Lt. Gen. Manet said he was greeted by demonstrations in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, attributing the latter gathering to a CNRP chapter led by Lim Somet.
Though CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann denied any involvement in the Australian protests, Lt. Gen. Manet said Mr. Somet’s role in Adelaide suggested that the opposition was either lying or poorly organized.
“What was the case? Did [Mr. Sovann] make an announcement in Phnom Penh but secretly order it to continue? Or was the stance of the leaders in Phnom Penh not to protest, but the leaders in Adelaide did not listen?”
Reached on Wednesday, Mr. Sovann said party members spoke only for themselves.
The number of people joining the protests was a fraction of the size of crowds at his own events, according to Lt. Gen. Manet, who also suggested the opposition revisit the tactic.
“Do we continue to argue, demonstrate and insult each other in the next generation, or do we find means to sit and talk, to negotiate?” he said.
The general, whom many see as his father’s heir apparent, also said he was unconcerned by a lawsuit filed in the U.S. by opposition official and U.S. citizen Meach Sovannara. The suit, currently in the “discovery” phase, implicates Lt. Gen. Manet in Mr. Sovannara’s “arbitrary, extra-legal and long-term” 20-year prison sentence for incitement.
But appearing outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday following a related hearing, Mr. Sovannara seemed to predict that his adversary would be part of a political solution.
“Mr. Hun Sen is old and his sons will do politics next,” he said. “We will have peace in the future.”
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy and Ben Paviour)