Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Sunday that Cambodia’s recent history of conflict was caused by foreign interference.
“The wars that happened were caused by provocation, incitement, support, smearing and interference from foreign powers, and the group of ignorant people who pushed Cambodia to plunge into wars and [a] genocide regime,” Hun Sen wrote on his official Facebook page.
His message was accompanied by a photo of him from his youth, as well as several photos of young Khmer Rouge soldiers and depictions of warfare.
“My youth did not know what is called comfort and happiness. Even schooling, I did not get that enough . . . I was even wounded on my body and I was blinded in one of my eyes. We are fed up with wars and separation from loved ones."
“Now we choose peace over everything because it is the breath of our life,” he wrote, reminding his compatriots to protect peace for themselves and the next generation.
Social analyst Meas Nee said Hun Sen’s message may have been intended to shield international criticism on what many observers have labelled a deteriorating human rights and democracy situation in Cambodia.
He said that criticism from the international community should not be regarded as interference by other countries.
“Even Pol Pot, who killed people, was condemned by the world, so the criticism is not a kind of internal interference or incitement."
“The international community works together to demand the respect of human rights and prevent any injustice from happening. It has been doing so for many decades to protect human rights and democracy,” he said.
Nee continued that if foreigners were to be blamed, it should be applied equally between the US and China, and not just entirely attributed to Western countries.
“We have to give equal value to everyone [and] to all countries, and we have to remember that no country in the world can survive alone and treat its own people arbitrarily,” he said.
Plunge into war
Cambodian historian Diep Sophal claimed Hun Sen’s message reflected reality. Sophal recalled the factors that led Cambodia to plunge into war, leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime.
“During the Cold War, China, Russia and the US pushed countries around the world to be in their political bloc. So, in order to do that, they had provocation strategies, like giving money, weapons, and political guarantees."
“This was the cause of the US-led Lon Nol coup d’etat, while communist China and the Soviet Union led the Khmer communist movement [Khmer Rouge],” he said.
Sophal said both China and the US were involved with the Khmer Rouge, but both countries keep smearing each other – most recently the spat between the US and Chinese embassies in Phnom Penh.
“The US blamed China, while China blamed the US. But who are the ones suffering? It’s Cambodian people,” he said.
A row between embassies
Earlier this month, a row erupted between the US Embassy and the Chinese Embass in Phnom Penh.
It started when the US Embassy posted a message on its official Facebook page claiming its country had played no role in the 1970 Lon Nol coup d’etat that many attribute as the starting point for the following decade of chaos that engulfed the country.
It also suggested the Chinese were responsible for upholding the Khmer Rouge regime.
The Chinese embassy responded with a Facebook post of their own mocking the American claims.
In the post, the Chinese Embassy ironically claimed that it was not the US government who instigated the coup, but in fact it was the “CIA”.