State security officers took photos of overseas protesters to find their families in Cambodia and question them — “and this is not a threat,” Prime Minister Hun Sen explained in a speech inaugurating a new road in Preah Sihanouk province.
“They say that I threatened them, and I did not threaten them,” Hun Sen said on Thursday. “I just said to take pictures of their faces and place them at Pochentong airport” in Phnom Penh.
“I will take your name and find your family to make your family see that their children are protesting against the government and saying this and that. Ask the parents whether things are as poor as your children or brother or sister say,” he continued. “Your child or brother or sister is doing this and yelling and shouting and cursing like this. Now, how are your living conditions? And we do not do anything and this is not a threat.”
Hun Sen was in Brussels last week for an Asean-E.U. conference, where a couple hundred Cambodians living overseas protested against human rights abuses.
“Now security has pictures of the protesters, and will visit their parents and families,” Hun Sen said today.
Also on Thursday, 36 opposition politicians and supporters were convicted of plotting in the third opposition mass-trial verdict just this year, and all but four of the defendants are abroad. The state has brought five mass trials against hundreds of opposition activists since the Supreme Court dissolved the country’s main opposition party in 2017.
Critics of government policies have also been questioned by police or jailed. Former CNRP activists have faced physical assault in addition to the court prosecutions, including a man killed in Phnom Penh last year.
“We don’t make any threats. We go to ask what the reality is,” Hun Sen said.
In his speech, Hun Sen also carried on with his regular verbal sparring against exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, without naming him, disclosing that the state had sold off Rainsy’s Phnom Penh property for $1.6 million to cover defamation damages.
Hun Sen received $700,000, Interior Minister Sar Kheng $200,000-$300,000 — “now he is thinking what to do with the money” — and the ruling CPP would use compensation “for elections or helping people,” he said.
“You make a wrong accusation, you have to pay compensation,” Hun Sen said, adding his adversary still “owed” him another $300,000. “Once the Supreme Court decides, just confiscate it — have no doubts about it — and put it up for bidding and sell it.”
“If we don’t, they will never learn their lesson,” he said, referencing a defamation case against Candlelight Party vice president Son Chhay over saying that the ruling party stole the election. “Cambodia has Cambodian law.”