Prime Minister Hun Sen has rejected criticism of his government’s legitimacy and speculation that Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations could be suspended over the country’s move to one-party politics.
During a meeting with factory workers in Kampong Speu province on Wednesday, he said that Cambodia was sovereign and independent and would not bow to international pressure over its rights record.
“Cambodia is a sovereign state ... please do not be confused. I want to stress that Cambodia will hold commune elections in 2022 and a national election in 2023,” he said, adding that the international community should not wait for the “resurrection of the dead,” a reference to the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The CNRP was outlawed in November and its leader, Kem Sokha, jailed on treason charges, ahead of the general election in July, prompting sharp criticism from the international community.
“I do not bow down to anyone,” Hun Sen continued. “If we agree, we work together. If we don’t agree, leave. Suspend us. It does not make any sense to keep talking.”
The speech came after several CNRP members now living overseas suggested that Cambodia could be suspended from UN membership.
Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst, said the remarks were a defense mechanism of the prime minister, adding that the government should seek a dialogue with the international community.
“The first embarrassment is when one country, one government, does is not representative,” he said.
Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the UN that the decline in civil and political rights in Cambodia posed an economic and social threat to the country’s development.
The European Parliament on Thursday voted in favor of a resolution calling for political freedoms in Cambodia and further sanctions against Hun Sen’s government if the charges against Sokha, who was recently released and placed under house arrest, were not dropped.