Obama in No Position to Teach Cambodia About Human Rights

Because his knowledge of human rights and democracy is largely academic, U.S. President Barack Obama is in no position to lecture Cambodia on these subjects during his visit to the country this week, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday.

Speaking with reporters outside the Peace Palace yesterday before the arrival of Mr. Obama, Mr. Siphan said that Cambodia has as much—if not more—to teach the U.S. about democracy than the other way around.

“I think that Obama, what he learned [is] from the book in school, but we Cambodians, we started over here, so Obama will learn real experience in the field [about] democracy and human rights developing in this country,” he said.

“When Obama raises that issue [human rights], I feel Obama is going to learn especially from Cambodia,” he added.

Mr. Siphan also said he did not think that Mr. Obama would raise the issue of human rights with Prime Minister Hun Sen during his visit.

“Obama will not talk about it [human rights]. The U.S. does not order others to do things,” he said.

“Obama’s visit shows the close relations between small and big countries. But it also shows that the U.S. has softened its manners. The U.S. will not play the role of a policeman who threatens others.”

Human rights, Mr. Siphan added, is not a uniquely American concept and should not be treated as such.

“We cannot substitute Asean human rights quality…by import[ing] from the United States.”

Mr. Siphan also said that during his visit to Cambodia, Mr. Obama will be representing U.S. interests, which are primarily economic.

“What’s the expectation from the American people? Economic growth,” he said. “Do they care about Cambodia that much? I don’t think so.”

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