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Prime Minister Calls Out Plans to Protest His Attendance at UN Meeting

Prime Minister Hun Manet gave a speech to nearly 20,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh's Pur Senchey district on August 29, 2023. (PM Hun Manet Facebook)
Prime Minister Hun Manet gave a speech to nearly 20,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh's Pur Senchey district on August 29, 2023. (PM Hun Manet Facebook)

Prime Minister Hun Manet called out opponents for their plans to protest his taking office while he attends the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, characterizing their strategy as “unsuccessful.”

“I have seen demonstrators aiming to prevent the UN from recognizing me. [They] made an unsuccessful goal,” Hun Manet said on Tuesday while speaking to around 20,000 workers in Phnom Penh. “How will you not let the UN recognize me, despite them scheduling me to talk on the 22nd [of September].”

The planned “peaceful rally” is scheduled for September 22 at the United Nations Plaza in New York city, according to a graphic shared on Twitter by former opposition figure Sam Rainsy. Organized by former members of the disbanded opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party [CNPR] living outside Cambodia, the protest is an effort to push the UN to “not recognize Hun Manet as Cambodia’s legitimate representative.” 

Hun Manet said he already has plans to meet with the UN Secretary-General and other leaders while at the meeting.

“I send a message to the people who are planning to protest against me. I do not object to your rights​ but please follow the laws of the United States, and don’t do anything to impact the people who support the government,” Manet said.

“We view this remark as a threat which his father usually put out when khmer people living outside of Cambodia mobilize to express their views,” said former CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua in an email, noting that Hun Manet was educated in western countries where “freedom of speech and association is fully respected by law.” 

Organizers of the protest, contesting “the unlawful appointment of Hun Manet as Prime Minister,” have started the process of filing a complaint to the UN Credentials Committee, she said. She cited Hun Manet’s appointment as prime minister by the King on August 7, before the National Assembly convened, as grounds for the UN complaint. 

“The peaceful rally at the UN during its General Assembly session where Mr. Hun Manet will illegitimately represent Cambodia is an action taken collectively driven by a collective moral responsibility to defend human rights, democracy and justice,” she stated.

Activist Chham Chhany also posted video clips of rallies protesting the transfer of power to Hun Manet held this month in Japan and Korea.

In his speech Tuesday, Hun Manet thanked world leaders from countries including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine, and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for congratulating him for taking office. 

While some leaders have sent their congratulations, the US, France, the UK, the EU, Germany, Japan and Australia publicly criticized the July election. Earlier this month, UN experts called Cambodia’s electoral process “distorted” due to the ban on the Candlelight Party and harassment of opponents by ruling elites.

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