A DAY after Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to “beat” any protesters who dared to burn his photo during his upcoming trip to Australia, defiant demonstrators have already called his bluff, setting fire to an effigy of the leader in a beach bonfire.
The move was in response to Hun Sen’s threats against would-be protesters during his trip to the Asean-Australian Special Summit on March 17. In Wednesday’s speech, delivered to 10,000 of the country’s garment workers in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he would follow protesters to their homes and assault them.
“I would like to send a message, do not burn my photo,” he said, as reported by The Phnom Penh Post. “If you burn my photo, I will follow you home . . . I will follow you and beat you at home.”
He added, “I want to be clear, you have your right to burn my image. I have my right to fight you, so it’s fine . . . I will go to your houses and seize you.”
Hundreds of Cambodians living in Australia are expected to rally against Hun Sen when he attends the summit between Australia and the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations.
Rather than deter protesters, Hun Sen’s disdain for effigy burning seems to have given demonstrators a new idea.
Cambodian-Australian Melbourne resident Va Malina told the Post she would be joining demonstrations next month during Hun Sen’s visit, and that the protests would now include burning an effigy of Hun Sen – thanks to the premier’s suggestion.
“We didn’t plan to burn Hun Sen’s effigy, but he is the one who reminded us yesterday,” she said.
Protesters will rally against the government’s crackdown on independent media and NGOs, as well as the dissolution of the opposition party and arrest of leader Kem Sokha.
In the same speech, Hun Sen also threatened to “shame” Australia and block the release of a joint statement if he faces pressure over the political crackdown.
“Hun Sen can block the release of any statement between Asean and Australia… Australia cannot pressure Cambodia. Don’t dare,” he said, as reported by The Guardian. “If you treat me inappropriately, I will hit back and leave shame on your face at the scene.”
Serves him right! Hun Sen declares will beat #Cambodian exiles who burn his effigy. Ha! #Australia #Khmer community obliges him, torches effigy. #Cambodia PM fails to understand that kind of dare always answered. @JulieBishopMP shld tell him stop threats https://t.co/AJSb4hTbLP pic.twitter.com/yhkzZngHJq
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) February 23, 2018
Critics have called on Australia to demand a retraction of Hun Sen’s comments threatening violence against Australian citizens.
Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop should tell him to stop his threats.
Cambodia’s Hun Sen is openly threatening violence against protesters in Australia. It’s time for Turnbull to tell Hun Sen to retract those remarks or don’t let him attend the leaders summit in Sydney. pic.twitter.com/Jvsw4sAXa7
— Elaine Pearson (@PearsonElaine) February 22, 2018
Elaine Pearson, also from HRW, said on Twitter it was time for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “tell Hun Sen to retract those remarks or don’t let him attend the leaders summit.”