CAMBODIA’S Prime Minister Hun Sen, known for his open distain of human rights groups and political opposition, has defended the rights of people with disabilities.
“One of my eyes is already blind and the other, when sweat gets in my eye, it hurts,” he said this week as quoted by the Phnom Penh Post, having lost one eye when he was a soldier for the genocidal Khmer Rouge in 1975. “This is my situation.”
“Why the need to discriminate against disabled people?” Hun Sen said, adding that discrimination should not take place in Cambodia, “even against the ones who have HIV”.
The PM – who has ruled for more than 33 years and recently ordered the dissolution of Cambodia’s primary opposition party – is currently presiding over a crackdown against civil society groups. Nevertheless, the rights of people with disabilities should be respected, he said.
“Before the people insulted me as akhvak,” Hun Sen reflected, using the derogatory word for blind people in Khmer. “The Thai King [Bhumibol] was also blind in one eye like me. So when the politicians call me akhvak, it came to the attention of his majesty … he was also angry.”
Cambodia recently implemented lèse majesté laws comparable to those in neighbouring Thailand, under which insulting the monarchy is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.