A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Cambodian Officials and Australian Lawmaker Exchange Words


Cambodian Political Crises Continues
This official photo shows members parliament raising their hands during a meeting at the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh, April 4, 2016.
 Cambodian National Assembly/AFP

A Khmer-Australian politician is refusing to apologize or back away from comments he made earlier this month when he criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rule following the murder of government critic Kem ley.

Hong Lim, who was born in Cambodia but is an Australian lawmaker from Victoria, delivered his original criticism in an Aug. 4 interview with Radio Free Asia. During the interview he discussed Kem Ley and the political climate in Cambodia.

Cambodia has been struggling to come to grips with Kem Ley’s death since he was murdered on July 10. While the government arrested a former soldier for the murder, there appears to be little confidence in the ability of authorities to solve the crime.

During the RFA broadcast Lim referred to the Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party as a “savage regime.”

Those remarks, among others, led to a series of rebukes by Phnom Penh, with government spokesman Phay Siphan demanding an apology two days later, and the National Assembly and the Cambodian Senate issuing separate letters condemning Lim on Aug. 8 and 9.

Phnom Penh’s criticisms did little to sway Lim, who told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday that the Cambodian parliament is merely “a puppet controlled by Hun Sen.”

“Whatever move Hun Sen wants it to make, the parliament just blindly follows suit no matter how nonsensical it looks and sounds,” he said. “The government lacks conscience and fails to represent Cambodian people.”

Lim also hit out at Hun Sen on the sensitive topic of Vietnam. Since Hun Sen came to power with Vietnamese backing in the late 1970s, opponents have attempted to paint him as a stooge to Hanoi.

The government arrested opposition senator Hong Sok Hour in 2015 after he posted comments on social media that claimed an article in the 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Treaty was meant to dismantle, rather than define, the border between the two countries.

On April 12, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Um Sam An with charged with a pair of criminal offenses over his accusations that the government and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party conceded land to Vietnam along its border.

Lim  told RFA that the Hun Sen regime “turns its blind eye to the key issues such as environmental destruction, Yuon [Vietnamese] troops’ presence in Cambodia, rampant and widespread corruption, unemployment and huge poverty. Dr. Kem Ley has found out that 85 percent of the Cambodian population makes only $3 a day. Why does it not address these issues instead?”

Reported by Sarada Taing for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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