US Lawmaker Rebukes PM for Rights Jab

US Senator John McCain criticized Prime Minister Hun Sun in a strongly-worded letter Monday for “comments and threats” made against a Cambodian human rights worker last month.

McCain’s letter referred to a Nov 15 speech Hun Sen made in Kom­pong Cham province in which the premier lashed out at a rights worker he identified as Akuk Sora.

Many believed it was a veiled reference to Kem Sokha, director of the Cam­bodia Center for Hu­man Rights and former Funcin­pec senator.

The prime minister accused the human rights worker of targeting “curses against Hun Sen.” And he warned that “A person who does like this, he would get sin at anytime.”

McCain, a member of the Republican Party, called Hun Sen’s speech “unacceptable” in a letter dated Monday and delivered on International Republican Institute stationery.

“Your strongly worded attacks on Kem Sokha and the work of the CCHR are a direct threat to those who only seek to provide the Cambodian people with a means to express their hopes and frustrations,” McCain wrote.

McCain concludes his letter by encouraging the government to participate in CCHR’s activities: “Rather than threaten those who wish for a true democracy in Cambodia, I hope you will take up the invitations of CCHR to at­tend these forums and radio discussions, so that all Cambodians may understand the nature of their government.”

Repeated attempts Tuesday to reach government spokesman Khi­eu Kanharith for comment on the letter were unsuccessful.

Kem Sokha said he received the letter by fax from the US-funded IRI, which also helps fund his CCHR, and of which McCain is chairman of the board of directors.

“If we have some problem, the donor should be concerned be­cause the money is from the American people,” said Kem Sokha explaining McCain’s interest in the issue.

“It’s not the first threat to me,” Kem Sokha said.

“I don’t know if it’s a real threat or not…. I worry every day in this country because of my activities,” he added.

In October 2003, Chuor Cheth­arith, a reporter and editor for the pro-Funcinpec radio station Ta Prohm, was shot dead outside his station’s office days after Hun Sen publicly warned the station to stop broadcasting programs critical of his speeches.


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