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Hun Manet Says US Invitation Not About Politics

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Hun Manet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, speaking at a Cardiology conference in Phnom Penh. Supplied

Hun Manet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, announced yesterday that he has accepted an invitation to participate in a parade celebrating the upcoming Cambodian New Year in California and has asked permission to invite opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leaders to join him, despite the widespread backlash to his impending presence at the parade by Cambodian-Americans.
Invited by the Cambodian Town Committee, Mr. Manet will attend the parade set to be held on April 10 in Long Beach, California. The parade is designed to promote Cambodian culture and traditions in the United States.
Speaking to reporters before leaving on a flight to China, Mr. Manet, a commander of the Cambodian armed forces and president of an overseas youth organization, said political preferences should not be a factor in who is invited to the parade, saying that Khmer New Year is about unifying Cambodians whether they are in the US or France.
“I have been nicely asking the Cambodian Town Committee to think about inviting the CNRP’s leaders to participate in this glorious tradition of our new-year celebration together in order to show our firm solidarity in the name of a great unified Cambodian family,” he said.  
“We won’t get in the parade and talk about politics in front of a microphone, we don’t have such an intention. I support and join the celebration over there because it’s my will to support it, and the town committee organizes this feast to reunite Cambodian people without thinking about any political trend. We promote our national honor together over there.”
He added that the parade organizers did not have specific political preferences when choosing who to invite, as deputy CNRP leader Kem Sokha attended the event as a guest of honor in 2010.
Yet Touch Vibol, president of the Cambodia-America Alliance (CAA), said Mr. Manet was deliberately injecting politics into the event.
“We request the committee to confer with the Khmer community and respect their concerns before they make another misleading attempt. The super majority of Cambodian-Americans do not want a symbol of oppression and tyranny falsely representing our beautiful culture,” he said.  
He added that many people in the Cambodian-American community were unaware that Mr. Manet was invited, with citizens voicing their outrage at a Cambodian Chamber of Commerce town hall meeting last Thursday.
Video footage obtained by Khmer Times shows a group of about 80 to 100 people meeting in Long Beach, California, to discuss preparations for the Khmer New Year festival. Some expressed anger at the organizers for inviting Mr. Manet.
“You did not know the news in Cambodia. I want to tell you that I am really pained [by the decision to invite Mr. Manet],” one woman said, adding that landlessness and homelessness remained problems in Cambodia.
Critics of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen in particular have often said members of the CPP are involved in land grabbing and illegal logging and have trampled over the rights of the country’s citizens during their more than three decades in power.
“This anger concerns over 90 percent of Khmers in America,” Mr. Vibol said.  
Monorom Neth, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce in Long Beach, took to Facebook to explain the decision to invite Mr. Manet, but was met with angry remarks, with one user writing that if Mr. Manet was to come, it would be for the ruling party’s interest.
“We do not hate him, but he should come another time. He should come in his own manner. But for the New Year celebration, we absolutely don’t want to see him. I don’t take any Khmer as an enemy. If he dares to come, a protest will happen,” the user wrote.
Mr. Monorom said the organizers had invited groups from both sides of the Cambodian political aisle as well as private businessmen and civilians.
“We did not invite only the CPP. If Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Sam Rainsy want to come, we will also welcome them. It won’t be about politics, it will be a day for all Cambodian people, free of politics,” he said.
In mid-February, the Cambodian-American Alliance led hundreds of Khmer-American citizens to protest against the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was in Sunnylands, California, participating in a US-ASEAN summit.

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