In a live radio and TV broadcast on Sunday, Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed for CPP and Funcinpec supporters to show patience and not turn to violence at public human rights forums across the country.
But in the speech given in Kompong Speu province, Kong Pisei district, the prime minister maintained a critical rhetoric towards the forums.
“I plea for you, the supporters of CPP and Funcinpec, please don’t use violence. Don’t use weapons,” he said.
He added that speakers at human rights forums have the right to say what they want but added: “We have the right to believe them or not believe them.”
Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which arranges weekly public forums, said he was pleased with the prime minister’s statements but emphasized that troublemakers at his organization’s forums should be punished.
“It is a good sign but the appeal should be followed up by action,” Kem Sokha said.
On several occasions, protesters chanting pro-CPP slogans have disturbed forums organized by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
The disturbances have led Kem Sokha to publicly appeal for authorities at all levels to take action against the harassment.
Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, agreed with Kem Sokha but doubted that much would change because of Hun Sen’s appeal.
“Hun Sen has made statements like this before but even though he did, if the local authorities don’t stop the group, nothing will happen. They know they have immunity,” she said
Speaking at a pagoda inauguration in June, Hun Sen warned that those who took part in forums critical of the government should be “careful.”
The prime minister did not specify if he was referring to CCHR forums but said that government authorities should not be blamed if such forums could not be protected from an angry public.