(Editor’s note: The following is an adaptation of an article published today in French at Libération.)
Since Hun Manet succeeded his father last month as Cambodia’s dictator, he has been shoring up international support for his power grab. This week, he is in New York to address the opening sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, followed by a private dinner with major U.S. companies.
Barely weeks after the United States and the European Union condemned his father’s government for stealing an election — the U.S. State Department declared the July elections as “neither free nor fair” — Hun Manet is being offered the trappings of international legitimacy. Next year, he will visit Australia and Japan, despite his illegal rise to power that shreds the remains of the four-part 1991 Paris Peace Agreement. The accord, in which 18 counties committed themselves to supporting democracies in Asia, ushered in Cambodia’s short-lived transition to democracy 30 years ago. Japan has even paid a blood price for trying to uphold freedoms there: In the 1990s, two Japanese election volunteers were killed during U.N. peacekeeping missions.
How times have changed. Now, U.N. ambassadors are rejecting the calls of Cambodian rights activists to oppose Hun Manet’s address at the General Assembly, even though walkouts are common in protest of leaders who’ve committed human rights abuses. And social media company Meta has overruled its own Oversight Board and allowed Hun Sen back on Facebook, even after he posted a video threatening to beat up his political rivals.