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Hun Sen Warns Against Tunisian-Type Revolt

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in the center of Tunis, 19 January 2011.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday vowed to take harsh action on any Tunisian-style revolution among Cambodians.

“I have to send a message to people who want to inspire a riot [like] in Tunisia,” he said in a public speech in Kampong Cham province. “I will close the door and beat the dog.”

Hun Sen was referring to the ongoing social upheaval in the North African country that toppled a longtime authoritarian president and is calling for a total change in government.

“I remind you: first, do not play,” Hun Sen said. “But if you can gather enough people, please go ahead.”

Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985 and is the sole candidate for premier for his Cambodian People’s Party, did not direct his remarks at any one person. But his speech follows a report on Radio Free Asia that inferred such a revolt “might happen one day” in Cambodia.

Kem Sokha, president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, said Hun Sen typically reacts this way “when someone talks about his power.”

“But no one can take him over,” Kem Sokha said.

The government should not be concerned over a Tunisia-style revolution, said Chan Soveth, lead monitor for the rights group Adhoc. “I think our Cambodian people cannot act like the Tunisians.”

However, he said, the government should not be careless about such and event, which should act as a reminder to seek “equal economic growth sharing between the rich and the poor” and the improvement of human rights.