Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday called on Cambodians to rise up and oppose “foreign interference” in the country, escalating anti-U.S. rhetoric by accusing the United States of “imperialism” and hypocrisy regarding human rights commitments.
Speaking to thousands of garment workers in the capital, Hun Sen gave a brief history of attempts by Washington to overthrow the regime of former King Norodom Sihanouk and the secret U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia in the 1970s.
“Please all compatriots, stand up and carry out national policy, protect our sovereignty and oppose foreign interference,” he said.
“The past grave suffering conducted by American imperialism. We haven’t forgotten the bombs and unexploded ordnance left on our soil. This story is happening again,” he added.
The remarks came a few days after Hun Sen called on Cambodians to learn Mandarin Chinese as part of a wider pivot towards Beijing following the arrest of Kem Sokha, an opposition leader, who was jailed on treason charges earlier this month.
The premier last week ordered police and immigration officials to investigate American citizens who he alleged had been working as spies in the country and had engineered mass protests during and after the 2013 general election.
He also called on U.S. Ambassador William A. Heidt to clarify allegations of U.S.-involvement in fomenting a “color revolution” in Cambodia and questioned whether the United States had received information that terror groups were “ready to launch attacks on Cambodia” after the embassy issued a routine security warning for Cambodia in response to the rising tensions.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the comments.
Kem Monovithya, Sokha’s daughter and a Cambodia National Rescue Party spokeswoman, said on Twitter that the comments were “very dangerous rhetoric that could easily backfire.”