Op-Ed: Cambodia’s PM Welcomes All: Join Hands with Us Rather Criticise, Do Not Sit and Cry

AKP Phnom Penh, June 04, 2020 —

The diplomatic terms of Prime Minister Hun Sen, of the Kingdom of Cambodia, were heard loud and clear as he commented upon the construction of a new pier and maritime security facilities centre in Preah Sihanouk province: Instead of criticising Phnom Penh in favour of China, friends of Cambodia should come along with real action and with financial, technical, and expertise to support this Southeast Asian nation’s plans.

Statements by the Premier also reaffirmed Cambodia’s transparency and accountability in responding to the country’s constitution, the people, and the world, that lasting peace and development are always in mind, head and heart of the Cambodian people. The country learned more than enough from its bad past experiences, especially the killing fields, experiences she will never repeat.

PM Hun Sen’s life as a young man he faced hardship due to the fighting in those years of conflict. In late 1978 he risked his life to flee the Khmer Rouge and escape to Vietnam where he mobilised forces, with support from Hanoi, to drive Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, from power in early January 1979.

He and his team who survived that genocidal regime then navigated the ship of State of Cambodia with one hand fighting the return of Khmer Rouge to power; while the other hand rebuilt the devastated country from scratch.

It took him nearly 30 years, until December 1998, before he could end the civil war. His win-win policy brought mass defections of the rebel Khmer Rouge fighters to join the Royal Government he then led. Following the arrests of the five killing field’s surviving leaders, who were blamed for the deaths of more than 2 million Cambodians between April 1975 and January 1979, were sent the perpetrators to stand trial in the hybrid court, the Cambodia-U.N. tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Cambodia.

Over the last couple of years, the Premier has also said repeatedly, Cambodia will not allow any foreign forces whatsoever to open military bases on Cambodian soil, in accordance with the country’s constitution.

At the same time, no Cambodian troops are allowed to be stationed anywhere overseas, except under the missions spearheaded by the United Nations.

Still, such statements often fall on the deaf ears of the critics, even the well-meaning ones. The critics and a certain foreign superpower — I wish not to reveal the name since the whole world knows it—that continued to libel Cambodia for working with China and allowing Beijing to build a new pier at Ream Royal Cambodian Navy base in the province of Preah Sihanouk. Where is the evidence and solid information they claimed supports their accusation that Cambodia has breached its own Constitutional prohibition on foreign military bases?

As a son of Cambodia, and working as government spokesman, I have full right to protect my country’s image, sovereignty, and territorial integrity from being libeled by any foreign government or media.

It is time now for any foreign government which has criticised Cambodia based on their groundless allegations, for the past couple of years to come forward to support Cambodia. This was the call of Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 1, 2020, when he toured the construction of physical infrastructures in the province. This event was widely broadcast by both foreign and local mass media outlets. Traditional and non-traditional multi-media outlets spread the Premier’s words to every corner of the world.

I would like to ask all critics to stop criticising with baseless allegations of the same issue again. Come and join Cambodia, as the Prime Minister’s statement on the joint drills with Cambodia’s Armed Forces said, build new maritime facilities, and piers. If you do not come, others, such as China, will do. It is your call, but do not be jealous and politicise the issue for your own political agenda.

Again, those, who made baseless allegations against Cambodia over this issue, should understand that any manipulation of the facts, any wrong interpretations, will not work. We all live in the global technology community through which people can access different information to verify the facts.

In conclusion, I wish to ask friends near and far, to please be extra-careful before you make statements that could hurt others. Follow the Cambodian saying: “please move your tongue several times before speaking”.

Cambodia has been through 30 years of pain since the late 1960s, especially the U.S. bombardments in 1968 on the eastern provinces on the land border with Vietnam, then known as part of Ho Chi Minh trail during Vietnam War as it spread to full scale.

Too much was too much for Cambodia and her people as well as the country’s infrastructure. We will never repeat our bad past experiences and we are playing several cards for our survival on all fronts.

We have a friendly foreign policy that based on a level playing field and equal footing, for mutual interests. So, why don’t you come and join us to build piers and maritime security facilities, so that we do not have to sail our broken ships thousands of miles overseas to fix them.

Once you invest in such facilities, you can repair your ships too.

My message is: Please see Cambodia as a good friend, not foe, a partner, not a competitor, in your eyes. Please come, stop criticising. When you join hands with us, you will enjoy your balance, maybe. Please put aside the idea that “if you are not with us, you are against us”. That idea does not work with me; it should not be part of the world we want to build.

We live in the era of globalisation where peace, stability and prosperity are needed and we must embrace them.

By Ek Tha

Spokesman of the Council of Ministers,

Advisor to the Ministry of Information,

Standing Vice-chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit