New Cambodian Ambassadors Told to Counter CNRP ‘Distortion’

CPP National Assembly President Heng Samrin has ordered Cambodia’s newest ambassadors to Asia and Europe to go on a public relations offensive against mounting news abroad that the country’s respect for democracy and human rights is slipping.

The orders, which Mr. Samrin delivered to the new ambassadors at a closed-door meeting on Monday, comes amid growing international attention to Cambodia since national elections in July, which were won by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP but remain mired in unresolved reports of widespread irregularities.

Cambodian security forces have shot dead seven people at protests in Phnom Penh since September and wounded dozens more.

“All ambassadors should know [what happens] and react promptly to any activities deemed scornful or aggressive in manner to the nation,” Mr. Samrin said, according to a copy of his speech. “You have to explain clearly and counterattack any acts that distort the views of the public regarding the implementation of democracy and respect for human rights in Cambodia, which the opposition always distorts.

“Especially, countries in Europe believe in the opposition and always put pressure on our government,” Mr. Samrin said.

The CNRP has been lobbying lawmakers in the European Parliament and the U.S. to take action over the situation in Cambodia, and with some success.

On January 16, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Mr. Hun Sen to carry out an independent and internationally led investigation into both the recent shooting of five garment strike protesters and July’s election.

The next day, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a spending bill suspending some aid to Cambodia until a credible investigation into the election is underway, or until opposition CNRP lawmakers—presently boycotting parliament in protest at the election—take up their seats.

In his speech to the new ambassadors on Monday, Mr. Samrin also complained about Cambodians who protest abroad, singling out South Korea, where hundreds of Cambodians earlier this month demonstrated against Mr. Hun Sen and the shooting of the garment workers.

“The [Cambodian] government tries to seek a labor market for them and sends them to work,” Mr. Samrin said. “They should praise, thank and support the Royal Government. Instead, they protest against the Royal Government. This activity undermines the politics greatly,” he said.

The speech does not list the countries to which the new ambassadors are being sent.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which runs the country’s diplomatic corps, said he did not know the details of Monday’s meeting because he did not attend. But he said the countries to which Cambodia was sending new ambassadors included France, Germany, Laos, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and Thailand, as well as a new ambassador to the U.N. in New York.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was unaware of any particular instructions given to the news ambassadors by the CPP’s Assembly chief.

Whether people protest against Mr. Hun Sen’s government ought to depend on their citizenship, Mr. Siphan said.

“If they are Cambodian citizens they have a choice to express themselves. If they are not [Cambodian] citizens, they have no right to vote [in Cambodia], so they have no right to express anything except cooperation.”

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

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