Prime Minister Accuses NGOs of Stage Managing Protesters

Some NGOs in the country have helped hone the skills of performing artists by training protesters to deliver dramatic performances to the media during demonstrations, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.

Speaking at the inauguration of a new bridge in Kandal province, the prime minister said the arts scene in Cambodia was blossoming due to the Ministry of Culture’s diligent work, pointing to the growing popularity of traditional forms of theater and music.

But credit should also be given to certain NGOs, Mr. Hun Sen gibed, for introducing melodrama to Cambodia’s protest culture.

“There is a specific training about how to act in a demonstration,” he said. “There are some non-governmental organizations that are very professional at training [protesters] to act in demonstrations—on how to run into police and hit against [them], and how female protesters should make their shirts malfunction and to take photos.”

Mr. Hun Sen said the media should know that groups of protesters were waiting for them to turn up before beginning their show.

“Because these groups will be moving around [freely] but [suddenly] be lying flat on the ground when the cameramen arrive,” he said. “Such acting is how they have been trained and the same faces [turn up] everywhere.”

The prime minister added that the greatest actors of the bunch have been honored in New York and Washington. “These are the places they give awards for professional protesters,” he said.

Tep Vanny, a leader of the Boeng Kak community who has been honored at award ceremonies around the world, interpreted the prime minister’s speech as directed at her group, which has incorporated theatrical elements into their protests over a broad range of issues.

“In fact, we protest because we have suffered human rights violations,” said Ms. Vanny, whose activism began after the government evicted thousands of Boeng Kak families to make way for a CPP senator’s development project.

“In the past, we didn’t know what advocacy meant and we didn’t dare to speak with reporters. But we got fed up with the government, so government became the [cause] of our protests speaking out against our suffering,” she said.

“The prime minister is the top leader, but he should not have painted us this way.”

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