Cambodia: Protesters burn Hun Sen effigy after he threatens to ‘beat’ them
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Cambodia: Protesters burn Hun Sen effigy after he threatens to ‘beat’ them

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.”


Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen walks towards his car after arriving at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi, India, January 24, 2018. Source: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

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.”

SEE ALSO: CIA, US intel agencies list Duterte, Hun Sen as ‘regional threats’

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.


A police officer stands guard in front of the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for Kem Sokha, former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring

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.”

Critics have called on Australia to demand a retraction of Hun Sen’s comments threatening violence against Australian citizens.

SEE ALSO: Cambodian free press ‘in ruins’, says Reporters Without Borders

Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop should tell him to stop his threats.

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.”