Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday praised the humanitarian work of Cambodia’s first NGOs during the dark days of 1979 and criticized those who supported a Khmer Rouge seat in the UN at the time.
“Those who maltreated us at the time should know what to do right now. They should not…put more pressure on us,” Hun Sen said, in reference to pressure for a foreign-dominated genocide trial. “Those who maltreated Hun Sen should not criticize or teach Hun Sen on how to have a trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders.”
At a ceremony at Chaktomuk Theater to mark the 20th anniversary of NGOs in Cambodia, Hun Sen praised the early NGOs for helping Cambodia’s poverty-stricken without imposing a political agenda. Representatives from 10 NGOs attended.
He said those NGOs—which included Britain’s Oxfam and the Christian-based group Church World Service—helped create one of the only links Cambodia had to the rest of the world and helped to put pressure on countries that had imposed an economic embargo on Cambodia.
“We struggled for survival, but how could we survive?” Hun Sen said, describing Cambodia in 1979, after the Khmer Rouge had been ousted by the Vietnamese. “We lived in hardship. We started from scratch and we were left nothing but enormous suffering.”
As complimentary as he was of the early NGO community, Hun Sen was critical of the countries he says are trying to influence how he runs his government.
In recent months, Hun Sen has come under pressure from the donor community and the UN, both of which want more international influence in the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.
While talks between Cambodia and the UN deadlocked, US representatives did manage to wrestle some concessions out of Hun Sen, though no formal proposal on a trial structure has yet been submitted by Cambodia to the UN for approval.