Interview: 'Sooner or Later Hun Sen Will Plunge Himself Into Trouble'

Veteran Cambodian politician, now in exile, suggests that members of Hun Sen's ruling party will be happy to see him fall.

Veteran politician and former deputy prime minister Lu Laysreng gives an interview to RFA's Khmer Service in Washington, Nov. 8, 2017.

Veteran politician and former deputy prime minister Lu Laysreng fled Cambodia to the United States in the wake of the recent political crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen and is now facing several lawsuits filed by Hun Sen and royalist party Funcinpec Party. Laysreng shared with Vuthy Huot of RFA’s Khmer Service his long-time observations of Hun Sen and officials of his government.

RFA: How are you going to deal with mounting lawsuits filed against you by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, and Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana? What is your latest stance? Will you apologize to Prime Minister Hun Sen or appoint a lawyer to represent yourself at the court?  Will you sell off your assets so that you can compensate the prime minister, who demands about $100,000 in compensation?

Lu Laysreng: This is really strange that my private phone conversation was tapped and then the contents were leaked to the public. Prime Minister Hun Sen turned to take sides with the thief who tapped my phone conversation. He even demanded me to pay compensation of more than 500 million riels. Hun Sen himself should pay such an amount to me for I have not done anything wrong.  He is the one who is at fault because he allowed such phone tapping. By secretly tapping my private conversation, he is wrong in the first place. He even committed a further mistake by having my conversation released to the public and then filing a lawsuit against me. I don’t see how such moves will benefit them. As a veteran politician who belongs to no party and since I became outspoken, please mark my words, I have never spoken ill by wanting Prime Minister Hun Sen to be killed or wished any bad things to happen to him. I had only advised him that there are better ways that he should do things.

I am of the opinion that within the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), no one dares to give advice to the prime minister, whether what he is doing is right or wrong. They all just follow him. I used to work within his government for three mandates, for a period of 15 years. I therefore know that within the party there are two sides. One side of the CPP nowadays does not say anything. They just let Prime Minister Hun Sen do anything solely on his own because what he has been doing will invite more and more trouble. This side of the CPP knows that sooner or later Hun Sen will plunge himself into trouble. Once he is falling down, he will be then pushed to step down. So, please, prime minister, you should carefully watch over your subordinates. Don’t just keep yourself overwhelmed with the issue of dividing the CNRP. Within your party, it is not so stable! Don’t find yourself too pre-occupied with other parties’ affairs by always wanting to divide them.

What I have said is the truth and I am not going to say something incorrect or turn to twist my words against others. When Hun Sen is creating more trouble, the other side within his party will be happy because they want to push Hun Sen to step down.

How can Hun Sen be forced to step down? The answers are through economic sanctions, asset freezes, and imposing a travel ban -- not allowing ruling party officials to enter those [Western] countries. All these will materialize. I urge our compatriots to not listen to the CPP spokesperson who said that there would be no problems. There will be troubles for sure if Hun Sen dares to make further move [to dissolve the CNRP]. U.S. Senate Resolution 279 will be passed either within this week or next week. All of their assets will be frozen, and this is just from the U.S. side—not to mention what might happen should Europe, Australia, and New Zealand follow suit.

What I am saying is that Hun Sen cliques own such a great amount of money. Just through deforestation activities alone in Prey Lang region that covers five provinces, and in Oral region. Their assets could be more than US $1.2 billion. This is too much! So where will this money go? I wonder how they are going to deal with the sanctions issue.

No one is going to hold power for the rest of his or her life. It is impossible! Even the late King Norodom Sihanouk who gained the support of almost 100 percent of the population was still toppled from power. As for Hun Sen, more than 90 percent of citizens hate him. Should he dare to walk alone anywhere publicly, his head would be pelted with eggs. Frankly, Hun Sen dares not  travel anywhere publicly [alone]. Wherever he goes, he always floods the area with his bodyguards.

What I am saying is that within the CPP there are two groups. One group is watching Hun Sen and allowing him to do whatever he wants. Once he is in big trouble, they will push him to step down. But if he can manage to survive the situation, then they will just reap benefits from him. That side just waits to reap the benefits, and there is nothing for them to loose. But it is more likely that Hun Sen is going to fail. Sooner or later, if the UN, the U.S. and other countries just put pressure on [his government], will the CPP retain Hun Sen? They will not.

RFA: I want to go back to the question related to the lawsuits against you. Once lawsuits were filed, you issued an apology, asking for amnesty from the king and you never said that you would flee Cambodia since you already asked for apologies. You chose to remain within Cambodia. At the same time, there were a lot of threats from Prime Minister Hun Sen. How could you be able to escape from Cambodia to Thailand?

Lu Laysreng: Hun Sen said he has his insiders within other various parties. For me I also have my insiders within his party. Let me tell you that at first I did not leave Cambodia. At around 3 a.m. on that day I received a phone call from a senior official at the interior ministry informing me to leave the country as soon as possible since otherwise they would arrest me at 8 a.m. I was still weighing whether I should leave or not. Yet my grandchildren begged me to leave the country and enjoy eating steak in the U.S. since it is more delicious than eating food inside a jail in Cambodia. I then decided to leave the country.  I left the country because I received advice from a senior leader within the CPP. I prefer not to mention his name.

I want to declare again that I am not recognizing this court. And I don’t recognize these lawsuits because all these lawsuits depend on the fact of collecting [evidence] from a thief who secretly tapped my private phone conversations. I cannot accept such a product of a thief.

I apologizes to Hun Sen when I wrote an open letter to the King and the prime minister. Then Hun Sen accused me of being too old and easily confused. In my letter I called for proper immunity for Hun Sen once he leaves power. But he turned and accuses me of ill intent. I apologized to him…How many times does he want me to apologize to him?

I cannot apologize to him anymore. It should be he who apologizes to me. Because he secretly tapped my phone. Don’t say that he does not know who that Facebook account holder named Seyha really is. This is such a dirty job! I don’t think he does not know who that Seyha Facebook account holder is. Yet he commended that Seyha Facebook account holder. Why as a prime minister did he commend such an act carried out by a thief? I feel so ashamed having had such a prime minister.

RFA: During the 15-yearsperiod that you served within three mandates of government and worked with Prime Minister Hun Sen, how was your relationship with him?

Lu Laysreng: I never had any disputes with him. I have never had any trouble with anybody I’ve worked with. I got along well with Prime Minister Hun Sen. For 15 years, there were no troubles…. I worked with him because I thought that it would be better to [change the system] from within. But after I’d been working with him, it turned out to be more corrupt. Now the whole system is so corrupt that it cannot be changed. Hun Sen is too corrupt to be changed. On the timber issue alone, each night they actively transport wood to [neighboring countries]. Hun Sen once said that should deforestation continue, he would have his head cut off. Now that the forests have almost run out, Hun Sen’s head remains in place. Now he turns to place a bet on the dissolution of the CNRP. How come our prime minister is so free? He should have taken this time to think about possible economic sanctions from foreign governments.

Translated by Sovannarith Keo.