Hun Sen Invokes Assad, ISIS in Defense of January 7

Those who hate Pol Pot should support Prime Minister Hun Sen in the same way that those who hate the Islamic State militant group must support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the prime minister said Monday.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the administrative offices of the new Tbong Khmum province, Mr. Hun Sen recalled a meeting he had with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the recent Asean Summit in Burma in which Mr. Hun Sen compared the situation in Cambodia to that in Syria, where the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has taken large swaths of territory.

“I talked to the U.N. secretary-general and told His Excellency the U.S. and their allies are fighting ISIS, while Assad’s regime in Damascus is also fighting ISIS, so this is an alliance,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“So anyone who wants to weaken Assad’s regime, it means the benefit will be equivalent to helping ISIS; ISIS is an Islamic State that beheads people,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen then claimed that in a separate meeting, U.S. President Barack Obama told the prime minister the same thing about working with Mr. Assad. “In a meeting with the U.S., [Obama] said ‘His Excellency, when the U.S. and its allies fight ISIS while Assad is fighting ISIS, it is naturally an alliance,’” he said.

“Any action to weaken the Assad regime will empower ISIS. I speak frankly like this. It’s the same here,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “You hate Pol Pot, but you oppose the ones who toppled him. What does this mean?

“It means you are an ally of the Pol Pot regime.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha both have their roots in the tripartite resistance coalition that fought Mr. Hun Sen’s regime during the civil war of the 1980s and early 1990s and included the Khmer Rouge.

From France, Mr. Rainsy was a founding member of Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Funcinpec movement. In Phnom Penh, Mr. Sokha served as a covert member of Son Sann’s Khmer People’s National Liberation Front.

During his speech, Mr. Hun Sen also slammed those who oppose marking January 7 celebrations of Pol Pot’s fall as a national day.

“If anyone opposes January 7, they are the automatic allies of the Khmer Rouge, the allies of the genocidal regime,” the prime minister said.

Cambodia’s opposition has long rejected marking the anniversary of January 7, 1979, as a national day, viewing it as the start of a decade-long Vietnamese occupation that installed Mr. Hun Sen in power.

The premier went on to poke fun at some of the CNRP’s 2013 national election promises, which included instituting a high minimum salary for garment workers and introducing a 40,000 riel (about $10) old-age pension.

“We have a program to increase salaries through a ladder method. We cannot fly up by taking a helicopter. Those of you who were promised that, please go ask the ones who made those promises for solution,” he said.

“Please, old people aged 60 and above, go to demand it from the ones who promised it.”

Mr. Hun Sen added he would like to promise to raise civil servants’ monthly salaries to $1,000, but that he was more realistic about the state of the National Treasury.

“But those people who made promises in exchange for the sake of votes, they know how to make promises. After that, whether they do it or not, that is a whole different question,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen ended his speech by criticizing Mr. Sokha, the deputy opposition leader, and Yim Sovann, the opposition party’s spokesman, for enjoying great wealth while championing the cause of the poor.

Raising the issue of Mr. Sokha’s pepper farms in Kompong Cham and Tbong Khmum provinces, Mr. Hun Sen said the CNRP official is irresponsible in accepting donations from poor supporters.

“Some people always make a profit from doing politics because their land in both Memot district and Chamkar Loeu district grows so many pepper trees, and then they buy more land in Kep province and we don’t know how many homes they have,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“Some people sold their chickens to help [the CNRP] but their leaders become rich,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen also launched into a personal attack on Mr. Sovann, who owns a hotel in Tbong Khmum’s Suong City, accusing him of serial adultery.

“The one who owns a small hotel at the Suong market also has a girl when he goes there. This guy has a girl wherever he sleeps,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “He’s hungry for sex. Don’t think that nobody knows about this.”

Mr. Sovann is currently on leave in Australia and could not immediately be reached for comment.

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