kep – Campaigning only a few kilometers from the Vietnamese border, Sam Rainsy pledged Monday to expel Vietnamese immigrants if he is elected prime minister.
“If I win this election, I will send the yuon immigrants back,” he told a crowd of 400 at Wat Phnom Leav, in Kep municipality.
“If the Sam Rainsy party wins, there will be no more yuon puppets,” he added, using the common ethnic slur for Vietnamese.
The vitriolic speech came during the second stop in a one-day campaign swing through Kampot province and Kep.
Earlier in the day, while speaking in front of foreign television crews and a crowd of about 800 at Wat Krangdong in Banteay Meas district, Sam Rainsy toned down the anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, and did not use the word ‘yuon’.
“Please vote for the Sam Rainsy Party to solve the Vietnamese immigration problem,” he said, spending about two minutes of a 60-minute speech on the subject.
But when the camera crews were absent later, Sam Rainsy loaded another hour-long speech with 15 minutes of pledges to end illegal immigration.
“The government works for the yuon. The government cheats the people of their money to give to the foreigners,” he said, attacking his CPP rivals, whom he accuses of being allied with Vietnam.
When asked after the speech why he had changed the tone of his rhetoric, Sam Rainsy said, “Because we are nearer the Vietnamese border, so they understand this word very well.”
Sam Rainsy, as well as deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, have come under sharp criticism from human rights organizations and diplomats for their anti-Vietnamese stances.
The anti-immigration platform, however, resonated with registered voters at the wats.
“I hope Sam Rainsy wins and does what he promises. I hope he will send the Vietnamese back,” said Dos Ven, a 59-year-old farmer from Banteay Meas district.
Of the 10 registered voters interviewed at both stops, all said they wanted the Vietnamese expelled from Cambodia. None, however, said the Vietnamese had done anything to them personally.
In Hanoi, meanwhile, the official Vietnam News Agency on Monday criticized Cambodia’s opposition politicians for resorting to “hostile speeches against Vietnam,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The paper’s commentary, quoting the communist party daily Nhan Dan, said, “They even use words of discrimination which insult not only the Vietnamese nationals in Cambodia but also the entire Vietnamese people.”