PM Sings Own Praises, Critics’ Views Diverge

Prime Minister Hun Sen in a speech Tuesday boasted of his ability to broker peace with the Khmer Rouge and garner aid and loans from donor countries.

The prime minister, speaking be­­­fore graduates of the National In­stitute of Education, also said that his long tenure was proof of his popular support.

“Why does he stay so long?” Hun Sen asked of himself. “If I led them badly, they would not have kept me.”

The prime minister boasted, too, of his recent visit to China, which he said garnered more aid money for Cambodia. He said the Chinese aid was not proof of his close ties with the communist nation, as he said some critics have charged, but instead, is just the latest in a series of successful efforts to attract out­side help.

“I signed with the US to get tens of millions of dollars, with Japan to get tens of millions, the EU to get tens of millions,” he said.

He added that he did not care what his critics said about him—only about the opinions of Cam­bodians and the na­­­­­tion.

Hun Sen said his “win-win,” three-point policy of offering former Khmer Rouge soldiers am­nesty, jobs and ownership of their land and other valuables was the key to win­ning the peace in Cam­bodia.

“These three points make it smooth until today,” he said.

But opposition Secretary General Eng Chhay Eang said by te­lephone Tuesday that the prime minister’s proclamations painted a too-rosy picture of his tenure in power.

The aid, he said, is not sent be­cause of Hun Sen but because many people in Cambodia are living in poverty.

“He should feel shame for using the Khmer people to beg for aid,” he said.

He also said that peace with the Khmer Rouge was not the result of the three-point plan, but of the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, pressure from the international community and the Paris Peace Ac­cords.

He also suggested that Hun Sen’s agreement to give amnesty to Khmer Rouge soldiers was the rea­son there would never be a Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cam­bo­dia.

Koul Panha, director of Comfrel, said Hun Sen has made progress in uniting the country but suggested his style of leadership is no long­er necessary.

“The same people should not stay in power all the time because of past accomplishments,” he said. “The leadership should sacrifice and allow a new generation to take charge.”

“A good military commander is not necessarily good at managing the economy,” he added.

While also acknowledging Hun Sen’s accomplishments, Lao Mong Hay, a legal expert at the Cen­ter for Social Development, questioned the CPP’s democratic credentials.

“They use force to impose their will,” he said. “People do not have a free choice.”


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