Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday warned critics he will “follow you all the way to your doorstep and beat you right there” if they joined protests in during next month's ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney.
“To those who have planned to protest against my visit: You have to remember that it's about the face of your country,” Hun Sen told a gathering of about 1,000 factory workers in Phnom Penh.
“Go ahead with your protest. I challenge you. But be warned not to burn an effigy of me. If you do that I will go after you all the way to your house,” he said.
“I will follow you all the way to your doorstep and beat you right there,” warned the prime minister, who has faced mounting international criticism since he disbanded Cambodia’s main opposition party and jailed its leader for treason in 2017.
“You can enjoy your right to burn my effigy. I can enjoy my right to assault you. There is nothing wrong about that. You use violence on the effigy of Hun Sen. I can use violence against you,” said Hun Sen.
Adding a special threat to the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Movement (CNRM), a grouping made of the now banned former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), saying “I will assault each and every one of you.”
“I’m warning you to never show your face. As soon as you appear you will all be assaulted,” he said.
Hong Lim, an ethnic Cambodian member Australia's Victoria state legislative assembly, told RFA’s Khmer Service the latest of Hun Sen’s frequent treats of violence against his foes “constitutes an element of terrorism.”
“We are now translating his remarks and will include them as part of the evidence for our complaint against him. We will file this complaint with Australian police and Interpol. We need to protect Australia from a terrorist like him,” said Hong Lim
A second Cambodian-Australian councillor, Meng-Heang Tak, said Hun Sen’s threats would fuel anger among Cambodians in Australia and backfire by bringing out more protesters burning him in effigy.
“I can see that there are elements of crime in Hun Sen’s remarks. People in Australia shall be protected by the law to enjoy their freedom of expression and peaceful protests,” he told RFA.
“His threats to people to not create the effigy of him and burn it have only encouraged more people to create more effigies and burn them,” said Meng-Heang Tak
“His advisors didn’t give him a good advice”.
As part of its protest, the CNRM vowed Wednesday to expand its boycott of companies connected to the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 33 years.
Last week the CNRM called on people not to buy products from Vital Premium Water Company beginning this week, because that company is run by Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana and the water is “the spring drops of tears,” Eng Chhai Eang, a former deputy president of the CNRP, told RFA on Feb. 15.
This week the CNRM is calling for a boycott of gasoline sold by the Kampuchea Tela Company, a firm owned by Hun Mana and Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany.
“After our first appeal for a boycott of the Vital Premium Water product, Hun Sen’s government has retaliated by filing lawsuits against our people. But we see this as a success. Some people have already stopped buying Vital and Aruna water,” Ry Kea, the general secretary of the CNRM, told RFA from California.
He said the CNRP remains focused on demanding the immediate release of party president Kem Sokha, who was arrested in September and is being tried for treason, and to reverse the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November.
“We are against violence,’ said Ry Kea.
He dismissed Hun Sen’s assault threats against CNRM activists as part of “his cheap leadership style.”
“This is one of the reasons we cannot allow him to stay in power. We love democracy. We are determined to stand up for it. We will continue to launch more appeals to boycott products and services by Hun Sen’s family,” Ry Kea told RFA.
The summit between Australia and leaders of the 10-member ASEAN is slated for March 17-18 in Sydney, and is to be hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Paul Eckert.