Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that Cambodia will not forgive anyone – whether foreign or Cambodian – who threatens the Kingdom’s peace through activities that compromise its independence or sovereignty.
The warning followed comments by several western countries about the 27-year prison term handed down to former opposition party leader Kem Sokha for conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow the government.
“We will not forgive anyone, either Cambodian or foreign, who uses the pretext of democracy or human rights to carry out activities against our independence and sovereignty, as this could lead us back to civil war,” he said while presiding over a March 6 graduation ceremony for students from the Institute of New Khmer Generation.
“I understand that some people based outside of Cambodia are sharing their concerns. [But] I believe they should pay closer attention to my concerns. Cambodia came very close to being lost to the flame of war in the past, largely due to the uncaring influence of foreign powers,” he stressed.
Hun Sen recalled his efforts to bring an end to the civil war, initially through talks with then-prince Norodom Sihanouk in France in the late 1980s.
On March 5, the premier posted a video about his press conference that followed his meeting with Prince Sihanouk. In the video, Hun Sen says that talks between Khmer and Khmer could find a solution for Cambodia, appealing to several different warring factions to come to the negotiating table.
On March 6, he elaborated on the video: “Foreigners did not fight and die alongside Khmer patriots – they fled and left us behind. Now that there is peace, they are prepared to express their concerns on our behalf. [But] when there was war, they were nowhere to be seen,” he said.
Without naming the object of his criticism, Hun Sen referred to a country that supported Marshall Lon Nol’s coup against Prince Sihanouk in 1970, noting that the coup led directly to the escalation of the civil war, and the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
“If you can remember supporting the Lon Nol military coup which caused civil war in Cambodia, you need to stop pretending to talk about democracy. If you supported the Khmer Rouge at the UN for 12 years, then you should just stop talking completely,” he said.
He highlighted the fact that several countries have expressed concerns about the development of the Kingdom’s Ream Naval Base, despite the base being thousands of kilometres from their own territory.
“Interestingly, they have never expressed any concern about the security of Cambodia, including the threat of a possible colour revolution,” he said.
He said he hoped that no foreigners were fuelling the fire by supporting any group that tried to carry out a colour revolution, warning that such action could shatter the Kingdom’s hard-fought peace and start another war.
“How many lives were lost in the search for peace? How many people live with disabilities from past wars? We must maintain the peace at all costs,” he said.