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Expats protest PM’s visit

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Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives in France for an official visit yesterday morning ahead of meetings with French President François Hollande and Cambodian expatriates. Photo supplied

Expats protest PM’s visit

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit to France sparked demonstrations organised by Cambodian expatriates in Paris over the weekend, prompting the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to issue a statement on Saturday condemning them for incitement and claiming they have no right to interfere with the Kingdom’s internal affairs.

Saturday’s demonstration, which took place at the highly visited Human Rights plaza at the Trocadero, in full view of the Eiffel Tower, was organised by an ad hoc coalition of Cambodian political, cultural and religious organisations based in France, according to a document released by the organisers.

The organisers’ call for action, published in French and Khmer, demanded the 1991 Paris Peace Accords be upheld and condemned Hun Sen and his government for “deliberate violations of national and citizens’ rights and … Vietnamese colonialism in Cambodia”.

Eugene Mormin, a journalist who has been attending the demonstrations in Paris, said the predominantly Cambodian crowd carried banners calling for Hun Sen to step down, and was “vigorously” addressed by speakers of all generations.

Mormin added that participants took care to engage passersby, informing them why French President François Hollande should be critical of the prime minister with whom he will meet during the three-day visit, which began yesterday.

On Friday, the International Federation for Human Rights published an open letter to Hollande on behalf of local human rights groups Licadho and Adhoc, as well as the French League for Human Rights, expressing concern over reported violations and political imprisonments.

Calling for the release of four environmental activists, 14 CNRP members, two monks, opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour and a student who called for a “colour revolution” on social media, the letter urged France “to publicly condemn the serious human rights violations occurring in Cambodia and show its support for . . . civil society”.

The CPP statement accused the CNRP of orchestrating the demonstrations in Paris and said such actions constituted “incitement” and were “a threat to national unity, peace and national security”.

While an organisation of expatriate CNRP members known as “CNRP-France” was listed among the organisers, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann insisted the party was not involved with the Paris demonstrations.

The ruling party’s statement, which made no mention of the demonstrators’ complaints, held a different view.

“The majority of the protesters were Cambodian who earned a foreign citizenship, therefore those individuals . . . have no rights to interfere the internal affairs [of Cambodia],” the statement said.

However, Hy Panhavuth, one of the protests’ organisers, rebuffed the CPP’s claim yesterday, ahead of another demonstration scheduled to take place by the Cambodian Embassy in Paris, saying “of course we are Cambodians”.

“We, like all Khmers, are concerned by the problems in Cambodia; they affect us,” he said adding, “we are in a democratic country; we have a right to make our voice heard”.

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