Responding to criticism over its crackdown on political opposition ahead of next year’s election, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday hits back at the United States, attacking its history of intervention in the region.
In a meeting with factory workers in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen questioned the U.S. role in overthrowing then-King Norodom Sihanouk in the 1970s and highlighted what he said was the “overthrow” of President Richard Nixon.
“I am sending a message to those who criticized the dissolution of the opposition party and [arrest of] its president on treason charges as going against the will of the people,” he said.
“Have you ever thought about the overthrow of King Sihanouk to the point that the constitution of Cambodia vanished?”
He compared Cambodia’s situation to that of South Korea and Thailand, saying other countries’ governments do not consider the people’s will.
Kem Sokha, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was arrested in early September and charged with treason for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow Hun Sen. The CNRP is the subject of an ongoing Supreme Court case that could see it dissolved and its seats in parliament, the Senate and local authority positions handed out to other parties under legal amendments proposed by the ruling party.
The State Department issued a statement earlier this month condemning the crackdown and proposed amendments, saying they would “disenfranchise” millions of Cambodians.
David Josar, U.S. Embassy spokesman, declined to respond to Hun Sen’s comments, noting that Nixon had resigned after a two-year investigation had led to articles of impeachment being filed and was pardoned without serving jail time.
Eng Chhai Eang, CNRP vice president, said on Wednesday via his Facebook page that the CPP’s proposed amendments to election laws “cannot steal the will of the people away.”