Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday threatened to fight Cambodians living in Australia who are planning to protest his visit to the country next month.
While addressing a group of garment workers in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen discussed his upcoming trip to Australia next month for the Asean-Australia Special Summit, where he expects protesters to hold demonstrations against his government.
“Please protest, but I would like to deliver a message to you: don’t burn my photo; if you burn my photo, I will follow you to your home,” he said.
“You have your right to burn my photo, I have my right to fight you, so it’s fine. You have your right, I have my right.”
Mr Hun Sen also noted that the Australian government was honoured to have him visit the country for the summit and that any protests would be contrary to its position.
The premier said that during mass demonstrations following the 2013 national election in Cambodia, protesters did not dare to burn his photo because they knew it would bring a curse upon their families.
“If they dare to make effigies and burn them, I will go to fight them at their home,” he reiterated.
Mr Hun Sen also discussed the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, created by former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy after the opposition party was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year.
The premier again said that the movement was a terrorist organisation and should not dare show its face at any demonstrations in Australia next month.
“I told you in advance, so don’t show up,” he said, noting that if one member did appear, he would beat that person, and if two showed up, he would fight both of them.
“I am not putting pressure on your rights, but it’s a terrorist organisation,” he added. “It’s an illegal organisation that I call a terrorist organisation.”
Mr Hun Sen said that when he travels abroad, 90 percent of people give him a warm welcome, while only 10 percent feel the need to hold protests.
“It’s always like that. The number of protesters is always lower than the number of people wanting to welcome me and take a selfie,” he said.
There are about 30,000 Cambodian-born Australians, with the majority living in Melbourne and Sydney. Many fled Cambodia during the civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s.
Hong Lim, a member of the state of Victoria’s legislative assembly banned from returning to Cambodia after he called the government “beastly”, could not be reached for comment, but previously said he would be organising protests.
Mr Hun Sen also addressed rumours that the Australian government plans to put pressure on Cambodia during the summit over the dissolution of the CNRP and the shuttering of multiple media outlets.
“Why would we go to Australia to be criticised?” Mr Hun Sen said, adding that Australia should thank Cambodia for supporting its relationship with Asean.
“Australia should thank Cambodia, not criticise Cambodia,” he said. “A joint Asean-Australia statement would not be issued if there was any order or activity that opposed the independence and sovereignty of Cambodia or interfered with its internal affairs.”
Mr Hun Sen said he had faith in the Australian government and its Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, noting that the countries had a good relationship, with Cambodia receiving refugees from Australia.
The summit is scheduled for March 17 and 18.