Ahead of Election, Hun Sen Turns to Muslims in Search of Votes

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday rallied support among the country’s Muslim population ahead of July’s elections by promising to carry on late King Father Noro­dom Sihanouk’s legacy of recognizing all faiths.

“Muslims in Cambodia are lucky because here there is no discrimination and mass murder between religious groups, except during the Pol Pot regime,” he told a crowd of some 500 Muslims at a Quran-chanting contest at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theater.

“We have to continue in this spirit, and the Cambodian King [Sihanouk] in the past never promoted any discrimination against any religion,” he added.

Mr. Hun Sen said that the country’s emergence from the Khmer Rouge regime—under which religion was banned and Muslims were targeted—had seen the government put all faiths on an equal footing.

“All religions, including Bud­dhism and Islam, died during the Khmer Rouge,” he said. “Every religion was reborn after January 7, so none of them is older or younger.”

He also promised that his family would donate $5,000 toward the foundation behind the day’s chanting contest every year moving forward.

Last week, Mr. Hun Sen told a crowd of about 5,000 members of the CPP in Kompong Cham province, as well as monks and members of the Cham Muslim community, that religious groups in the country were unlikely to experience any of the divisions that are leading to violence in Burma and Southern Thailand.

Soh Kamry, a senior figure in Cambodia’s Muslim community, praised the government for respecting their rights, allowing them unhindered participation in politics, letting Muslim women wear their religious garb to school and setting up prayer rooms for them at Phnom Penh airport and other facilities.

For that, he said the country’s 600,000 Muslims were fully behind the prime minister in July’s elections.

“These are the elements that make Cambodian Muslims strongly support the Cambodian government and support Prime Minister Hun Sen for prime minister in the fifth [national] elections,” he told the crowd.

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