Hundreds of Cambodian-Americans demonstrated outside the Sunnylands Estate, in Southern California, on Monday, as Prime Minister Hun Sen and other ASEAN leaders met there with US President Barack Obama.
Demonstrators demanded justice and respect for human rights from Hun Sen’s government and the president, while inside, the leaders discussed trade potential and broader security concerns.
“We want to demand that President Barack Obama focus on human rights and democracy in Cambodia,” said Vannak Men, a protest leader from Lowell, Massachusetts. “The Cambodian People’s Party, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, has gravely violated international treaties on human rights and democracy.”
Demonstrators held placards calling for justice and calling Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for three decades, a “killer.” “Don’t kill people; don’t sell the nation,” read one protester’s sign.
“We want to tell [Hun Sen] that all the people here want freedom, peace, and democracy in Cambodia,” Vibol Touch, president of the Cambodian American Alliance, told VOA Khmer. “We want respect for human rights in Cambodia. We want him to fully respect democratic principles.”
Hun Sen had met with a group of some 500 supporters in the US on Sunday, calling for unity and discouraging disputes among Cambodian people, both in their home country and in the US.
Sam Rainsy, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, earlier this month called on his own supporters to avoid the Sunnylands protests, in Rancho Mirage, California.
But demonstrators here called for the release from jail of Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sokhour and for the release of Meach Sovannara, a Rescue Party activist who also hold US citizenship.
Demonstrators also called for an end to land grabs, particularly those involving corrupt government officials.
“Their main source for enriching their cronies is through grabbing land from the people,” Touch Vibol said.