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Cablegate: Prime Minister Hun Sen Defends His Right to Respond to His

VZCZCXRO2113
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0581 2260140
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140140Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1058
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000581

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL CB
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN DEFENDS HIS RIGHT TO RESPOND TO HIS
CRITICS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Prime Minister Hun Sen, known for his
off-the-cuff remarks, lashed out spontaneously in a graduation
speech August 12, during which he railed against real and perceived
criticism from opposition parties and the international community.
He warned that while he would use legal means to respond to his
critics, he would meet political or military challenges in kind,
using force if necessary. Separately, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs issued a statement asserting that Cambodia is more than ever
committed to the protection of human rights and that freedom of
expression must be exercised within the rule of law. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The Prime Minister used the occasion of his speech August
12 at the graduation ceremony at University of Law and Economics to
give his own views on the meaning of the "rule of law." He stated
that lawsuits against him would be met with countersuits and he
threatened that he would meet political or military challenges with
like force. Local English language media quote the Prime Minister
as further boasting that he would be able to silence all opposition
voices "in two hours" if he were to decide to use force, rather than
pursue the matters in court. "You wouldn't be able to run. All of
you would be arrested," he is quoted as saying.

3. (SBU) He made emotional and personal attacks on his critics, some
of which were clearly directed at Mu Sochua, and repeated the same
derogatory phrase against an unnamed woman who filed a suit against
him which ignited the defamation suits in the first place. The
Prime Minister repeated previous complaints that some civil society
representatives are mere mouthpieces for the opposition. Noting the
growing popular support for the CPP evidenced in the 2008 election
results, the Prime Minister said that he expected to remain in power
until 2023.

4. (SBU) The Prime Minster also directed his ire towards the
international community, accusing its members of favoring the
opposition by applying different standards to their actions. His
remarks were directed at representatives of the European Union, who
met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials August 7 to
express concern about freedom of expression and rule of law,
following the spate of defamation and disinformation lawsuits
against opposition politicians, journalists, and private citizens.
(NOTE: In response, the MFA issued a statement August 11 asserting
that Cambodia is more than ever committed to the protection of human
rights and that freedom of expression must be exercised within the
rule of law. We will send a scanned copy of the statement to the
Desk. END NOTE.) The Prime Minister's message to the international
community was to give equal weight to his rights (referring to his
right as a private citizen to dignity and the right not to be
defamed), as well as those of the opposition.

5. (SBU) The U.S. drew fire for its involvement in Cambodia's
domestic politics in the 1970's. The Prime Minister accused the
U.S. of the coup which installed the Lon Nol regime and led to the
civil war and is quoted as having said that U.S. soldiers came to
Cambodia "to die." He also had sharp words for opposition
politicians who have political leanings towards the U.S., warning
against allowing another country to manage Cambodia's destiny.

Comment

6. (SBU) Hun Sen is given to making extemporaneous remarks which
often offer a window into his current concerns and pet peeves. His
attacks against his critics, civil society, and the international
community all reflect his (and members of his government's)
assertion of their right to respond to perceived unjust attacks
against their dignity and honor. This is consistent with messages
from other RGC officials that use of defamation and disinformation
suits is not an attack on human rights, but a protection of the
victim's rights. As noted in the August 11 MFA statement, freedom
of expression must be exercised within the rule of law, and as the
Prime Minister perhaps less eloquently stated, such freedoms need to
be exercised responsibly, without infringing on the rights of
others. However, the government position for honor and against
"defamation" leaves little to be said for fair comment against
public figures, basic freedoms of expression contained in the
Cambodian constitution, or the use of criminal charges of
disinformation and incitement to jail critics.

ALLEGRA

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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