By: Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen has again lashed out at critics of the January 7 holiday marking the 1979 overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, warning he will arrest anyone who accuses he or other senior officials of being “traitors” to the country.
“I would like to tell you not to curse as a national traitor,” Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
“If you curse, it will be a problem, if you dare to use this word you will be arrested from your homes. Don’t talk about freedom of expression on this matter.”
The premier also warned that any politician or parliamentarian making similar criticisms would lose their parliamentary immunity and be arrested immediately.
“Whether or not you have parliamentary immunity, the father of parliamentary immunity will still arrest [you]. You can say whatever, or curse January 7, but don’t curse as a national traitor,” Hun Sen said.
In his speech, the prime minister also cautioned foreign countries against interfering if the government does make any arrests.
“I would like to give a message in advance, as it might happen in the future,” he added.
On Friday, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party held celebrations marking the 32nd anniversary of the January 7, 1979 overthrow of the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese army.
The January 7 holiday – known as Victory over Genocide Day – has attracted criticism, however, with some arguing the day should not be celebrated as it marks the moment Cambodia lost its national sovereignty and fell under the influence of Vietnam.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday that the day was more a celebration of the CPP’s birthday than a real symbol of national liberation.
He was also critical of the premier’s warning, saying citizens have a democratic right to criticise politicians and that the party’s position on the issue of January 7 would remain firm.
“If somebody has said traitor they have done nothing wrong,” Yim Sovann said.
“The prime minister is a public figure and he should accept criticism from the people. In a democratic society we have to accept criticism, or we are not a democracy.”
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