Hun Manet: Respect is the key

Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan and Cheang Sokha / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
HUN MANET, the eldest son Prime Minister Hun Sen, in the second-part of an exclusive interview with Khmer Times’ Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan and Cheang Sokha, talks about his overseas trips to meet the Cambodian diaspora and his efforts to reconcile differences in the spirit of democracy.

Hun Manet, the eldest son Prime Minister Hun Sen, in the second-part of an exclusive interview with Khmer Times’ Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan and Cheang Sokha, talks about his overseas trips to meet the Cambodian diaspora and his efforts to reconcile differences in the spirit of democracy.
KT: What has been your message in your overseas trips to meet the Cambodian diaspora?
Hun Manet: My message has been ‘the spirit of unity is key to our prosperity and honour as Khmers’. We have been fighting for the past 400 years, we do not need any more fighting. We need dialogue and understanding.
The reason why we stopped fighting in 1998 was that the Khmer Rouge accepted the reconciliation policy of the prime minister to start a dialogue to engage and work with each other. If the fighting just continued on, we would not have peace today.
KT: Following up on your answer on how peace came about in 1998, why do you think a small group of people in the diaspora is not taking up your message of peace and reconciliation?
Hun Manet: One of the possible motives is that they do not want me to travel overseas to talk to the diaspora. For whatever reason, they don’t want me to speak to Cambodians overseas. So the mobilisation of people by a small group of people to protest against me is just an add-on to that objective.
I don’t know why they should be holding such a view, living in a free country like the United States, France or Australia and even some of the protest organisers who are holding high positions in the Australian government should understand that they should respect the right to be different.
For example, the leader of the opposition goes to Australia to speak.
It doesn’t mean everyone agrees with him. There are those who support Kem Sokha and there are those who don’t.
On the part of the CPP, we have never instigated anyone or mobilised people to protest against anyone overseas.
We respect their rights.
All we ask is our rights to be respected and also to respect the rights of the people who join us to hear us speak overseas. We are all Cambodians and people are old enough to make their own decisions, so please respect them. We don’t want to create divisions, so let us unite as Cambodians.
KT: What do you say to those in the opposition who like to use protests as a tool against you overseas?
Hun Manet: Remember overall both the ruling party and the opposition have a platform to win hearts and minds. But there are individuals in the opposition who try to express their disagreement with others through protests and rejection. The question is how do you react to that?
My appeal is to please respect us. We agree to disagree, but there has to be respect on both sides. The majority of Cambodian people in the diaspora understand that. Despite the efforts to mobilise hundreds of people to protest against me, the individual opposition members only managed to get a few to form an unruly crowd.
A small gathering of people protesting in a place where more people have come to hear me speak. Those protesting have tried to prevent Cambodians from coming to hear me speak. But at every place a large number of Cambodians have braved the protests to come and join us in the spirit of Khmer unity. Doesn’t that tell you something? They are defending their dignity and rights as Cambodian people.
This clearly shows the commitment of the Cambodian people to be united. And this is what gives me hope.
I accept the fact that in my overseas talks, there are those who support me and those who don’t. I’m not God. Even the Buddha had a faction that did not respect him. The point I’m making is that despite the protests, Cambodians showed up in large numbers in each country that I and my team visited.
My message to the Cambodian diaspora is that they don’t have to necessarily believe me. They could also listen to the opposition party. At the end of the day, it’s only them who can make up their own minds.
In my meetings with the diaspora, I seldom talk politics or put forward the CPP line. My talks are in the spirit of Khmer unity and reconciliation and what the government has done to help the people.
This is done in the spirit of democracy. The people who claim to respect democracy should also respect the differences in others. If people choose to join the party at the function, please don’t curse them and call them names. That’s very un-Khmer. It’s also really unfair of them to claim that I am travelling overseas to cause divisions among the Cambodian diaspora.
KT: How were the town hall meetings arranged with the Cambodian diaspora?
Hun Manet: Before we arrive at the meeting, we will ask our organisers to ask the people to list down their main topics of concern and what people want to hear about. The issues could range from border issues, immigration, land issues, corruption, deforestation, etc.
So when I speak to the diaspora, I have to address these issues.
Normally those who attend the meetings have heard the issues discussed from the other side and they now want to hear what the government has to say. It’s a healthy discussion in the spirit of democracy.
We’ve done our research and we can answer the questions well. The people who attend the meetings are busy people and they need precise answers. Should they have further questions on certain issues, they could come to me or my colleagues during the dinner reception to ask and we would do our best to answer to them.
For instance if they want answers on issues related to border issues, we have people in our team who specialise in such topics to answer them. Many people have done just that.
When it comes to land issues, we accept that there are problems. But we also take the opportunity to explain to them what the government has done to overcome them. The government is open about it – we want to know the issues and we want to know where the disputes are happening. And we want to solve the problems.
We need a dialogue for us to find a solution. We need to talk and all sides must respect this right, instead of just denigrating us all the time. We bring news about the solutions.
On the other hand, the opposition just brings the problems without any solutions in sight to agitate people.
We are not asking people to believe us lock, stock and barrel. At the end of the day, the results will show that we are on the people’s side.
We show what are the actions or policies the government has for taking care of the poorest of the poor. We have an ID card system to identify the poor so that they can get free health services.
We give out land concessions to the landless and we have workers’ insurance. We accept our faults and we have tried to remedy them and we have improved.

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