Criminalise denial of Khmer Rouge atrocities, Hun Sen says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 1:24am


Cambodia's prime minister says he wants a law to punish people who deny that atrocities occurred during the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, apparently trying to link his political rivals to the widely despised movement.

Hun Sen's appeal to parliament on Monday comes ahead of a July 28 election his Cambodian People's Party is expected to win by a landslide. He has been campaigning aggressively and has suggested several times that an opposition victory would be akin to bringing back the Khmer Rouge, even though there is no connection between the two.

Hun Sen, an authoritarian elected leader, was once a Khmer Rouge cadre himself, and his political allies include people linked by scholars to Khmer Rouge atrocities. The Khmer Rouge are widely held responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people.

Pro-government media have publicised comments allegedly made by Kem Sokha, deputy president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, that exhibits at the famous Tuol Sleng genocide museum were faked, even though the camp's commander confessed that it was a Khmer Rouge torture centre and he was found guilty by a United Nations-assisted genocide tribunal.

Kem Sokha's party says his words were taken out of context.

Last week, Hun Sen suggested that the opposition party shares the philosophy of the long-defunct Khmer Rouge regime.

In a speech to villagers in southern Cambodia, he said the Cambodia National Rescue Party was promising voters it would cancel their banking debts if it won the election.

He likened the idea to the communist Khmer Rouge's eradication of the banking system when they took over Cambodia in 1975.