Prime Minister Hun Sen told “foreigners” to think carefully about whether they wish to support the elected government of Cambodia and the country as a whole, or if they would rather offer support to an opposition group who he said violated the law.

Hun Sen made the warning while presiding over the inauguration of Krouch Chhmar District Referral Hospital in Tbong Khmum province on April 3.

“If you feel that your interests lie with those who break the law, then you can do so, but please remove your embassy from Cambodia. The purpose of embassies is to fulfil the role of linking the governments of two countries,” he said.

The premier said he was pleased with the comments made by his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim during his visit to Cambodia last week.

Anwar insisted that no nation should interfere with the internal affairs of other countries.

“I strongly support him and we are now strong ASEAN partners,” said Hun Sen.

“How can you interfere in Cambodia’s affairs and advise us to respect the law and the roles of the legislative, executive and judicial branches while you yourselves attempt to interfere with the legal process and suggest that the prime minster or the government could influence the work of the courts?” he asked rhetorically without naming any country.

Hun Sen explained to attendees that it remained necessary to protect the peace, recalling that no one could have envisioned the conflicts that were to follow the 1970 coup d’etat led by then Marshall Lon Nol, which took place as Cambodia was widely acknowledged to be “an island of peace”.

Referring to more recent global events, he said that no one could have predicted the wars that broke out in Iraq or Ukraine, let alone the accusations of coup plotting that emerged in Germany last year.

Turning to ambassador of Japan to Cambodia Atsushi Ueno, who also attended the launch of the hospital, Hun Sen said he needed to discuss politics on the occasion because he felt he had no better option.

“Some people called on the armed forces to turn their guns on the government; some called on the King to abdicate the throne and eradicate the monarchy,” he said.

“On behalf of the government, the armed forces and citizens of Cambodia as a whole, do we not have a duty to protect the King, the throne, our constitutional monarchy, and our peace? Yes, we do,” he said.

“This year’s election will proceed as usual, but anyone who has been involved in treasonous destructive attacks on the Kingdom’s peace will never receive clemency to join the democratic process. They have tried to use non-democratic means to effect change, and I will not pardon them during my tenure,” he stressed.

Hun Sen recalled the treason case in Germany.

“Twenty-five people were reportedly arrested in raids across Germany last December, on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government, something which no one had dared to imagine,” he said.

In January, German media DW reported that five people had been charged with treason for the terror plot. The suspects had ties to the far-right Reichsburger scene and had planned to create “civil war-like conditions”, according to German media sources.

Hun Sen also questioned an ongoing protest – likely in reference to the longstanding labour dispute at NagaWorld involving the jailed Chhim Sithar, leader of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) at the integrated casino resort who led demonstrations before her arrest – asking how a person with no employment could afford to spend almost two years protesting.

“What does this case suggest? The number of protesters started at more than 300 and now remains at around 100. My question is this: How can a jobless worker be able to hold a sit-in protest without working? Don’t think that I am unaware of what this suggests,” he said.

He also touched on those who criticised a supposed lack of press freedom in Cambodia.

“Immoral media actors should not be tolerated. There are still thousands of people working in the sector to share information with the public,” he said.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said Cambodia should adhere to its policy of maintaining open relations with all countries and uphold its policies of neutrality and non-alliance.

“Constructive and positive input is important for our country’s development. If anyone offers us well-supported suggestions, we should take them under consideration,” he said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the Kingdom, as a sovereign state, follows it own laws and Constitution, with a legitimate government that is born from the country’s democratic process.

“It is a basic principle that foreigners must respect Cambodia’s sovereignty and constitution while they are guests in our country,” he added.

“If any country interferes in Cambodia’s affairs, it affects our sovereignty. Therefore, it is logical that when foreigner works with political parties outside the government, they are violating the Kingdom’s internal affairs,” he said.