Prime Minister Hun Sen urged tolerance and thanked members of the Cambodian diaspora for not reacting to the hostility on display towards him by others while he was in the US to attend the May 12-13 ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington, DC.
In an audio address to compatriots living in the US, Hun Sen thanked them for the warm reception and said farewell to them before his return.
The premier said he was proud that Cambodian people living abroad did not respond to the few individuals who behaved improperly towards him.
“I thank our people for listening to my appeal and maintaining their tolerance of others. I urge you all to continue to be tolerant in the face of incitements and attacks. These are the actions of opposition groups who regard someone as heroic if they violate the law and show off their extremism,” Hun Sen said.
Hun Sen did not name anyone in his remarks but he was most likely referring to a man identified as Ouk Touch who threw a shoe at him – but missed – while he was talking to a large crowd of supporters.
The man’s act of protest – similar in form to that of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush in 2008 – has been widely criticised by Cambodians generally, including those who are not supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
“I am not a politician, but the actions committed by this man [Ouk Touch] who insulted our country’s leader were immoral acts. It seems like he doesn’t want to be Khmer,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW).
Hun Many – the premier’s youngest son and president of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) – stated that what occurred was absolutely unacceptable.
“We the members of the CPP and all Cambodians who support the CPP will not pardon or show any clemency for those who belong to these extremist groups,” Many said.
Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Men Sam Orn said Ouk Touch’s act was a “cheap shot”. She denounced him, saying his actions cannot be forgiven.
Political analyst Yang Pov said the calls for tolerance by Hun Sen were the right gestures to make and showed the capacity for forgiveness for all Cambodians no matter how immoral the man’s act was.
He said that if CPP supporters had responded to Touch’s actions, it would have shown the world immoral acts of fighting and vengeance between Khmer and Khmer.
“In my view, there is nothing to gain by reacting to what [Touch] did. Hun Sen called on his supporters to refrain from responding, which reflects his forgiving nature and a higher moral understanding,” Pov said.
He called on all people in the Kingdom and compatriots abroad to maintain a higher level of morality and show the world that Cambodia is a dignified country.