Sam Rainsy, president of the opposition CNRP, said Friday that his party sided with China in the multilateral disputes over the South China Sea, and claimed that Vietnam was trying to encroach on Chinese maritime territory.
“[W]e are on the side of China, and we support China in fighting against Vietnam over the South China Sea issue,” Mr. Rainsy told a crowd of about 1,000 party supporters at the CNRP’s provincial headquarters in Siem Reap city.
During his speech, Mr. Rainsy again used anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, and repeatedly referred to the Vietnamese and Vietnam as “yuon,” a word some consider derogatory to describe the Vietnamese.
“It [Vietnam] goes and invades everywhere, and it steals land from Cambodians because the illegal government is a puppet of yuon,” he said in his speech.
“The islands belong to China, but yuon is trying to occupy [the islands] from China, because yuon is very bad,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Parts of the South China Sea, a large swathe of which China stakes a renewed claim to, are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Tran Van Thong, a counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said that Mr. Rainsy’s comments on the maritime dispute didn’t bother him.
“We are not interested in his comments,” Mr. Van Thong said.
Siem Reap was the first stop for the opposition party leader on a trip that will take him and CNRP vice president Kem Sokha to several provinces where they will try to gather support before they are due to be questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for allegedly inciting garment workers to protest.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that Mr. Rainsy could support whomever he wants, but that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP government was neutral on the dispute between China and members of Asean.
“[W]e are very neutral about this case, because we are not in favor of any countries,” Mr. Siphan said.
Mr. Hun Sen’s government, however, is seen as being anything but neutral when it comes to China’s claims in the emotive sea dispute.
During the Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in July 2012, the 10-member bloc failed to release a joint communiqué for the first time in its 45-year history as Cambodia, who chaired the meeting, had done everything in its power to keep the South China Sea dispute off the agenda, much to the chagrin of it allies in Asean.
Cambodia is now regularly referred to as China’s staunchest ally in the region.
© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.