PHNOM PENH • Cambodia's strongman leader Hun Sen lashed out at Western governments for pushing "democracy and human rights" on his country, capping off a tumultuous political year with a fiery speech yesterday.
The 66-year-old Prime Minister has ruled Cambodia for over three decades, with the South-east Asian country tilting towards China in recent years thanks to loans for infrastructure and few complaints on human rights issues.
His administration was renewed for another five years in July following elections which critics called a sham, inciting threats from the European Union to revoke duty-free access to EU countries.
But Mr Hun Sen remained defiant yesterday as he inaugurated a monument with carvings showcasing his government's achievements.
"Don't make war by using what is called democracy and human rights, in which democratic countries used to make the mistake of supporting Lon Nol's coup," he said in a speech to thousands of officials.
General Lon Nol's US-backed regime was ousted by the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge in 1975, jumpstarting four years of horror as Cambodians were forced to live on communes, endure hard labour, and were tortured and murdered if they were suspected of plotting against leader Pol Pot.
Mr Hun Sen was a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and had a role in toppling the genocidal regime in 1979, although the US later sought to keep the ousted Khmer Rouge at the table in the United Nations.
DON'T REPEAT MISTAKE
Don't make war by using what is called democracy and human rights, in which democratic countries used to make the mistake of supporting Lon Nol's coup.
MR HUN SEN, Cambodia's strongman leader, in a speech to officials.
"You as a democratic country... supported Pol Pot, who used to kill people with no regard for respecting human rights," Mr Hun Sen said, without naming the United States. "You supported them to keep a seat at the UN."
Cambodia yesterday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war, with Mr Hun Sen vowing to use all necessary means to protect the country's hard-earned peace. The celebration was attended by some 30,000 people, including foreign diplomats.
In his speech, Mr Hun Sen also said that the end of decades-old civil war on Dec 29, 1998, provided "gold and diamond" opportunities for Cambodia to rebuild its national economy and society and to reduce poverty.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA