Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Monday visited the French Embassy in Phnom Penh to sign letters of condolence for the 12 people killed in last week’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist shootings in Paris.
Mr. Hun Sen visited the embassy in the afternoon, with reporters allowed to observe him signing the letter before being asked to leave the embassy’s foyer as he spoke with French Ambassador Jean-Claude Poimboeuf.
The prime minister’s letter said that the attack last Wednesday, in which a number of prominent French cartoonists and journalists at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were shot dead by Muslim extremists, was an attack on freedom of expression.
“Cambodia absolutely condemns the cruel attack of the terrorists in France last week that caused the deaths of innocent French people, injured many people, and was very shocking. It is a serious attack on basic freedoms, expression and democracy,” reads Mr. Hun Sen’s letter, which also offers condolences over the murder of five other people in related terrorist attacks.
“On behalf of the Cambodian people and myself, I share my condolences and great sadness to the victims who died in the violence and to their families, and offer solidarity and a deep heart with the French government and people,” his letter said.
In the morning, Mr. Namhong visited the embassy to sign a similar letter, telling reporters as he left the building that he came “to show Cambodia’s utter condolences and to offer Cambodia’s solidarity against the very cruel murder.”
“This was very cruel murder by the extremists who killed the French journalists at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper on January 7,” Mr. Namhong said as he departed.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the incoming president of Funcinpec who spent his early adulthood in France, also visited the embassy Monday to deliver a letter.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said he would like to see Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Namhong extend their defense of freedom of expression to Cambodia as well.
“I think that Cambodia’s leaders seem to not pay attention to the killing of journalists in Cambodia. So, please, Cambodia’s leaders, pay attention to our Cambodian journalists who were killed and threatened,” he said.
In Cambodia, 13 journalists have been murdered in their line of work since 1994. No one has ever been brought to justice for their deaths.
In December 2011, a warehouse guard for the World Food Program was sentenced to six months in jail after sharing images he printed from K.I. Media, an anti-government website, that accused CPP leaders of treason.
The website, which often carried scathing commentary, cartoons and caricatures mocking government officials, was blocked in Cambodia.