PM Threatens Tit-for-Tat Political Protests Ahead of US Trip

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday threatened to rekindle demonstrations against the CNRP if he is met by protesters during a trip to the U.S. next month for a meeting of Asean leaders.

The last time Mr. Hun Sen made such a threat, in response to demonstrations against him during trips to New York and Paris, the result was an October 26 protest in Phnom Penh at which CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were severely assaulted by pro-CPP demonstrators.

Responding on Monday to an apparent message from opposition activist Brady Young warning him of new protests when he goes to attend the meeting chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama in California on February 15 and 16, Mr. Hun Sen said he was not worried.

“If you think that demonstrating against me is useful, please follow your heart, as that’s your expertise,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote in a Facebook comment.

“What you have to remember, and to tell your leaders inside and outside the country,” Mr. Hun Sen continued, “is to recognize the right of my supporters to demonstrate against your leaders inside the country.”

Mr. Hun Sen went on to say that while the CNRP previously denied any connection to the September protest in New York, financial reports showed that the party spent money on it.

“So a demonstration inside the country [of Cambodia] has the possibility of happening against the opposition party leaders,” Mr. Hun Sen concluded.

He finished the post by attaching a photograph of Mr. Young wearing a CNRP hat and providing a copy of the message he had received from Mr. Young informing him of the demonstration plans, in which Mr. Young said that a nonviolent protest would be held “to welcome your presence.”

Mr. Young did not respond to a request for comment. In a reply to Mr. Hun Sen’s comment in the afternoon, he wrote that his plans had no connection to the CNRP.

“We do peaceful protests not in the name of the opposition party, but to represent the victims of 830,000 cases of rights violations by a group of officials—that is, in your government,” Mr. Young’s comment read.

“In particular, they are to oppose the Vietnamese colonialism that has violated the Paris Peace Agreement (October 23, ’91) through the CPP, and we do not take Khmer to be our enemies,” the activist added.

Mr. Brady’s comment was followed shortly thereafter by a press release from the CNRP-USA, signed by its vice president, Meas Chea of Philadelphia, denying that any official protests were planned.

“In my capacity as a member and leader of the CNRP-USA, I reject the CPP’s baseless accusation that the CNRP-USA will organize a mass demonstration against Hun Sen in California in February,” it said.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith also said the opposition did not endorse any protests against Mr. Hun Sen when he visits the U.S. next month.

“The CNRP in the country and abroad does not have the idea to hold a demonstration,” he said. “This is an individual thing and not the idea of the CNRP.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that he did not know whether Mr. Brady’s planned protest against Mr. Hun Sen would go ahead, but reiterated that if it did, it would not matter that the CNRP did not endorse it.

“The United States is a democratic country, so if the United States has the right to hold demonstrations, then Cambodia also has the rights to hold demonstrations,” Mr. Eysan said.

“If the CNRP’s supporters have the right to protest against CPP leaders, the CPP’s supporters also have the right to protest against CNRP leaders,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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