PM Supports Milosevic in Struggle Against ‘Intervention’

Prime Minister Hun Sen de­fended Yugoslav President Slobo­dan Milosevic Tuesday, saying little countries should stick together against bullying by world powers, and he drew parallels be­tween Yugoslavia’s and Cambo­dia’s national elections.

“Cambodia is a small country,” Hun Sen said on national radio. “As we see the big countries are pressuring a small country we have to help cry foul.”

Milosevic should not concede de­feat in a bid for national leadership until a run-off election is held, despite calls from several Wes­­tern countries that the strong­­man step down after his e­lection defeat last week, Hun Sen said.

According to official election re­sults, opposition candidate Voji­slav Kostunica received 46.42 percent of the vote while Milosevic took 38.62 percent.

Thousands have been protesting in Yugoslavia over the past sev­e­r­al days, demanding Kostu­nica be declared the winner.

Several Western leaders said there should be not be a second vote and have called on Milosevic to concede defeat. They blame Milose­vic for much of the ethnic bloodshed that has engulfed the Bal­kans during the past decade.

Hun Sen said such demands typ­ify powerful countries’ penchant for meddling in the affairs of smaller nations. “The whole world must respect the sovereignty of Yugoslavia,” he said. “Let the people there de­cide their own fate by themselves in the second round.

Seven years ago, Hun Sen found himself in Milosevic’s shoes.

Though Funcinpec won a ma­jority of the vote over Hun Sen’s CPP in the 1993 UN-sponsored elections, King Norodom Sih­anouk brokered a power-sharing agreement giving Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh joint control. During several days of fighting in 1997, Hun Sen took full control of the government, ousting Prince Ranariddh as first prime minister.

“The things that happen in Yugoslavia have made us think about [national elections in Cambodia in] the year 2003,” the prime minister said Tuesday. “What will it look like?”

Diplomats and election officials say Hun Sen’s comments raise ser­ious concerns.

“He will not listen to the inter­nat­ional community. He will not lis­ten to the civil society, and he will do what he wants,” said Kek Gal­abru, director of the Neutral and Independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cam­bodia.

If Hun Sen loses in 2003, she said, “He’s going to pretend he won the election, almost the same as the 1998 elections.”

US Ambassador Kent Wiede­mann said Hun Sen’s comments “fly in the face of common sense.

“No world leaders would say there are grounds for supporting Milosevic’s stubborn refusal to ac­cept the wishes of his people,” Wiedemann said. “As [the lead­er] of a government which claims to support democracy and the wishes of his people, we would expect Prime Minister Hun Sen to join this consensus.”

Hun Sen has repeatedly criticized the US and the UN for trying to strongarm Cambodia into an international tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“During globalization, the world is in trouble,” he said Tuesday. “It is the period of intervention by foreign countries in the internal affairs, which put pressure on independence, sovereignty and self-decision making by the people.”

One Asian diplomat said Hun Sen can be expected to support someone like Milosevic, who has kept a tight grip on power and re­mained defiant against the efforts of Western powers to oust him.

“Hun Sen is a strongman,” he said. “This is what strongmen nor­mally say. Even if there are strong indications the opposition has won the election, they will stay put until all of their assets are exhausted.”

 

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