Government Screed Slams Critics, Vows ‘To Tell the Truth’

The Foreign Affairs Ministry released an unusual defense of some of the government’s recent actions on Tuesday, accusing foreign diplomats and journalists in the country of colluding to destabilize the country by deliberately twisting the truth.

Though the ministry regularly accuses its critics of malicious intent, it has usually kept its responses short and sharply focused on the latest controversy. Tuesday’s statement, titled “To Tell the Truth,” departed from tradition in its length, at 11 pages, and rambling nature, taking on a number of issues from the past couple of years.

Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn addresses the U.N. General Assembly’s 71st session last year in New York. (UN Photo/Cia Pak)

With the stated aim of “setting the record straight,” it was also a change in tone for the ministry, offering up a pseudo-legal defense of the government and opening with a quote from libertarian former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul.

But the allegations were much the same as ever, accusing Western governments of seeking regime change, the political opposition of criminal activity, and news outlets, including The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post, of wanton anti-government bias. It also provided familiar defenses of recent legislation and arrests of activists and opposition figures.

“The link between biased foreign government funded NGOs and some predisposed Western journalists and diplomats provide a good clue as to why there is such a fierce and coordinated effort to undermine the Cambodian authorities,” the statement says.

Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn declined to speak with a reporter on Tuesday. Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry could not be reached.

Cham Bunthet, a political analyst and adviser to the opposition Grassroots Democracy Party, said the ministry’s break from form may have to do with the upcoming commune elections and the government’s fear of a strong performance by the CNRP, the CPP’s main rival.

Mr. Bunthet said he agreed with a few of the points the ministry made, mostly about the CNRP using racist language to whip up popular support, a claim the opposition denies.

“It’s true, the politics that tries to promote racist hate…it’s still practiced,” he said.

But he said the statement primarily displayed the government’s refusal to acknowledge the extent of its own failings by spending most of its words blaming others, and was guilty of the very politicking it sees in others.

“[You] point out everything bad about others but nothing about yourself. It’s just more politics,” he said. “You can’t judge other people harder than yourself if you are a responsible person.”

He said the effort was unlikely to change many minds, and that might not have been its intention.

“I see this as more like trying to send a message to the community,” he said. “Maybe it’s more of a warning than a statement.”

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