Australia

Cambodians condemn 'thug of South-east Asia's' Australia visit

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About 200 of Sydney's Cambodian community have defied threats of violence to rally against Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Australia.

Protesting Cambodians have gathered at Sydney's Hyde Park to condemn Prime Minister Hun Sen, hours after he posed for photographs with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull.

They held signs calling Prime Minister Sen "the killer" and a "disgrace" in response to threats of violence. 

Hun Sen, one of the world's longest-serving leaders, is in Australia for a special Australia-ASEAN summit this week.

The Prime Minister has tightened control of the press, civil society and the only credible opposition in the lead up to the Cambodian elections in July.

Demonstrators at Hyde Park in Sydney are demanding the international community stand up to Cambodian PM Hun Sen.
Demonstrators at Hyde Park in Sydney are demanding the international community stand up to Cambodian PM Hun Sen.
Abbie O'Brien

The Cambodian National Rescue Party's Sydney President Nairand Kay told the protesting crowd on Friday evening that Hun Sen should not be allowed to set foot in a democratic country. 

"This thug of South-east Asia rules Cambodia like a mafia state."

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the ASEAN summit on Friday.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the ASEAN summit on Friday.
AAP

Ms Kay, who was imprisoned for two years in Cambodia, called for change, demanding the release of all political and land rights activists, free and fair elections and the reinstatement of the disbanded opposition, The Cambodia National Rescue Party. 

Liverpool Hospital nurse Srey Kang also addressed protesters, urging the international community to take action to stop Cambodia turning into a one-party authoritarian state. 

"It is shameful that we see this thug (Hun Sen) comes to this Australia-ASEAN summit, walking with blood on his hands and shaking hand with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull."

Strong turnout despite threats

Hun Sen had reportedly threatened to "beat" any demonstrators and warned he would "shame" Australia. 

One of the protestors, Jimmy Neam told SBS that the Prime Minister threatened anyone who planned to be involved in the demonstrations.

"He said last week, publicly, he would follow us to our home in Australia and get his people to beat us up."

Mr Neam questioned why the Australian government is silent on the issue.

"I want to ask the Immigration Minister, 'why give a visa to him when he threatened to beat up his own citizens in his country'?

"We don’t want him to bring violence here, we don’t want him to bring his people here to intimidate our peace-loving people in this country," he said. 

"It’s our democratic right, living in this country to protest, to disagree with a policy. But he cannot come here and intimidate and want to beat us in our own country."

Sally Touche, who migrated to Australia from Cambodia in the 80s told SBS this was the first protest she's  attended but felt it's important she act as a mouth-piece for her family in her homeland. 

"You go out there and support the community and let our voice [be] heard so the people in Cambodia have a voice and know that we are morally and spiritually behind them and are giving them the support that they don’t have," she said. 

"We want the Australian government and the international community to know that, please do not abandon the millions of people that are still trapped back there and have no voice, no freedom of expression of any sorts.

And the daily threat of you can’t do anything wrong or say anything wrong just in case. And I call that living in fear."

The widow of political analyst Kem Ley, who was shot dead at a Phnom Penh gas station in 2016, was among the demonstrators.

Ahead of the protest, Ley's widow Rochana Bou told AFP her family had received death threats, but that would not keep her away. 

Protesters held signs calling Hun Sen a "killer" and demanding the release of the Opposition Leader.
Protesters held signs calling Hun Sen a "killer" and demanding the release of the Opposition Leader.
Abbie O'Brien

Rochana Bou is one of a small number of Cambodian asylum seekers recently accepted by Australia.

At the same time, Australia struck a deal to provide $55 million in aid to Cambodia to take unwanted asylum seekers. 

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