PM Warns Critical Forums of Public Retaliation

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned those who participate in public forums critical of the government to be “careful” and noted that government authorities should not be blamed if such for­ums cannot be protected from an irate public.

Speaking at a pagoda inauguration ceremony in Kandal prov­ince’s Ponhea Leu district on Mon­day, Hun Sen said that people an­gered by such forums may take mat­ters into their own hands.

The forums criticize “[the] government for not doing anything: No development, corruption….,” Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast on Apsara radio.

“The government doesn’t do anything,” Hun Sen quipped, “ex­cept [build] schools and roads.”

Though not specifying exactly what forums he was referring to, Hun Sen focused on a recent for­um organized by the US-based Na­­­tional Democratic Institute during which an opposition lawmaker made statements critical of the mon­archy.

“Someone scolds the King. If people threw stones to break his head, what would happen?” Hun Sen asked.

“The people are so angry. They will soon face it, I presume,” Hun Sen said cryptically, adding: “When you have a problem don’t blame that the government does not defend you. These public for­ums should be careful, they scold others randomly.”

Following a May 29 forum at which opposition lawmaker Khem Veasna reportedly accused ro­yalty of living parasitically off the country, both NDI and the opposition moved to disassociate themselves from the lawmaker’s views.

Khem Veasna claimed his comments were directed at monarchies around the world and were not at aimed at the Khmer royal fa­m­i­ly. He also blamed political op­po­nents of taking his comments out of context.

Opposition party members and Kem Sokha, director of the Cam­bodian Center for Human Rights

—which holds regular forums around the country where members of the public air their dissatisfaction with government authorities and institutions—said they were concerned that people may act on the prime minister’s cue.

“I am worried that these words may be incitement,” Kem Sokha said on Monday, adding that verbal attacks in Cambodia are sometimes followed by incidents.

Forums organized by the rights center are not singularly focused on criticizing the government, Kem Sokha said, adding that the government has achieved some successes, but there are many loop­holes and much more needs to be done.

Hun Sen has regularly blasted his critics and has lashed out on se­veral occasions at an unnamed NGO and a human rights worker he called Akuk Sora, though some people have noted the name rhymes with Kem Sokha.

In February, Hun Sen said that Bud­dhist pagodas should not be used to stage public forums as such meetings, he claimed, were pro­­moting political and defamatory information.

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