PM Blames Protests on ‘Terrorists’

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has blamed last month’s violence during a crackdown on opposition demonstrations on “agent provocateurs” and “terrorists” organizing the protests.

“It was clear that the demonstrations were well coordinated by terrorist groups and a handful of foreign nationals who provided support and protection to their leaders,” Hun Sen wrote to two senior US lawmakers.

In a new salvo in the public-relations war between the government and the opposition, Hun Sen said the government was preparing a white paper to dispel “erroneous” information and invited the US lawmakers to come to Cambodia and examine the situation themselves.

The letter was in reply to Sena­tors John Kerry and John Mc­Cain, who wrote last week to Hun Sen to complain of what they called violent government repression of peaceful demonstrators.

At least two people were killed in last month’s demonstrations, as police used live ammunition to disperse protesters. Some dem­onstrators were armed with rocks and bottles.

The second premier decried the “unconscionable allegation” that the government used force to crush peaceful protests. He replied that the senators “are the recipients of…false or misleading information about the situation here.”

“I can assure you that the demonstrators had a number of agent provocateurs who were anything but peaceful and that our security personnel acted with great restraint, acting forceful only when forced to by the mob,” he wrote.

The Hun Sen government has recently been fighting against negative publicity in the US as Dana Rohrabacher, a California congressman with a large Cambodian-American constituency, pushes a petition condemning Hun Sen as a war criminal.

The US government also has withheld approval of the July 26 elections, saying that it will wait until formation of a new government before passing judgment. The European Union, Asean and other major donor countries have given basic approval to the election results.

The CPP won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, but lacks the two-thirds majority needed to form a government.

The opposition Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have refused to enter a coalition government.

The US position of not recognizing the elections until a new government takes office threatens millions of dollars in foreign aid. US opposition also could deny the current government Cambodia’s seat in the UN.

Hun Sen complained in his letter that the US lawmakers seemed to be more receptive to the message of opposition politicians than to the rest of the international community.

“You are already aware that the vast majority of the observer groups pronounced our election as free and fair,” he wrote. “Is it fair to dismiss the international observers’ reports and to back up the bad losers’ allegations as being the sole and the whole truth?”

Hun Sen added that even Stephen Solarz, head of the US-based National Democratic Institute observer team, described the election as “a Miracle on the Mekong.”

Solarz, however, has since retracted that phrase, and the NDI has issued several critical reports on what it described as an atmosphere of intimidation leading up to the elections.

Hun Sen denied that the vote results were influenced by scare tactics.

“Everyone was impressed…with the high turnout of voters and [the] enthusiasm they showed in exercising their right to vote in secret ballots,” he wrote to McCain and Kerry. “Thus, how can you believe the often-repeated allegations that the voters were subjected to acts of violence and intimidation?”

Hun Sen accused the opposition parties of starting “to cry foul” only when they realized they were losing.

“This is a unique case in the world when the losers hold the winners, the Cambodian nation and the international community hostage to their irrational allegations and demands.”





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