Offering a rare glimpse into his closely-guarded family life, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced he was severing ties with an adopted homosexual daughter whose misbehavior he said has made her a liability to her relatives.
However he called on the nation not to discriminate against gays who he said are valued members of Cambodian society.
“Some parents are upset with their children. I have my own story. My daughter has married a wife,” Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony at Phnom Penh’s National Institute of Education.
“She is my adopted daughter. It is a difficult thing,” he said. “I have requested that the court cut her off because in the future, if she creates any problem, it might affect us as parents,” he said, adding that he feared his wayward daughter might demand a share of the family’s wealth.
“I sent her to study in the USA, but she went to have a wife and someday she might bring her wife to our home with a grenade…. It might lead to a problem,” he said. “I am able to educate the people of a country but I cannot educate my adopted child.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said following the speech that Hun Sen’s remarks about his daughter were not concerned with her sexual orientation, merely her behavior.
“He is worried his family name Hun might be used,” said Khieu Kanharith. “His point is that parents should not discriminate but the court should be aware that if his daughter creates any problems outside the home, it won’t involve him.”
In remarks broadcast on national television and radio, Hun Sen said one of his own grandchildren may be gay and uses the Khmer word “chha” for “yes,” which is reserved for females. “His grandmother calls him and he replies, ‘chha,’” Hun Sen said. “I appeal to parents who have gay children kindly not to discriminate against gay men or third genders.”
“Those kinds of people are good in studying and have business sense,” he added. “Gay men are good in the service industries…. They are doing great services such as hair dressing, nail trimming.”
Hun Sen recalled knowing a gay man who hid his sexual orientation during the Khmer Rouge regime.
“There was a gay man from before the Pol Pot time but he did not show himself as a gay man during the Pol Pot time because he was afraid of getting killed,” he said. “Seven January, 1979 liberated all people and sexy boys as well,” he added.
The vast majority of Cambodian homosexuals are not involved in anti-social behavior such as alcoholism, drug addiction or drag racing, he said.
Keo Tha, a founder of the organization Women’s Network for Unity, welcomed Hun Sen’s remarks expressing tolerance for homosexuals.
“I am really happy to hear such meaningful words from Samdech Prime Minister who clearly understands the emotional matters concerning gays and lesbians by calling for an end to stigma and discrimination,” she said.