Cambodian workers taking part in protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen in other countries should be identified and beaten by gangsters or made to suffer “traffic accidents,” a ruling party official says in a recording taken from a phone call, and now circulating widely on Facebook.
Speaking in a minute-long sound bite, Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour urges an unidentified colleague to set up a network to target and attack Cambodian migrant workers opposed to Hun Sen, who recently won re-election in a national vote widely condemned as unfree and unfair because he had banned the only credible opposition party before the vote.
“Let’s find some gangsters and thugs and then use them to beat up the identified targets. Just do whatever you can to break them down,” Heng Sour says, adding that if the attackers are later arrested, they will probably be sent back to Cambodia after serving short terms in jail.
“And when they return to our country, we will feed and support them,” he said.
Citing protests by Cambodians working in Japan during Hun Sen’s visit to Tokyo at the beginning of October, Heng Sour noted that protesters had destroyed a large photo of the prime minister, adding that a subordinate named Sreng had now learned the names of leading activists involved.
“Now we will take action against them,” Heng Sour said.
“And if they come back [to Cambodia], we will make sure that they suffer traffic accidents.”
“We cannot tolerate those who insult our leader,” he said.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Son Seyha, Deputy Director of the Humanitarian Association of Cambodia and a representative of Cambodian workers in Thailand, said that Heng Sour’s threats have already spread fear among Cambodians working abroad.
“I urge the government of Cambodia to get to the truth in this case,” he said, noting that Heng Sour has already denied the voice on the recording is his and has blamed the controversy on a plot against him by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“This is a matter of life and death for Cambodians working in South Korea and in other countries, and for those still in Cambodia who support the CNRP,” he said.
Speaking from Japan, CNRP activist Hay Vanna told RFA he has already notified Japanese authorities regarding the threat, adding that he knows the man named Sreng mentioned in the recording.
“I know the suspect named Sreng,” Hay Vanna said. “He fled Cambodia to live in Japan when Cambodia fell to the communist regime.”
“But now he has returned to Cambodia and works to bring Cambodian workers to Japan, and I guess he has worked very closely with Heng Sour to do this,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, Yim Sinorn, a CNRP activist and representative of Cambodian workers in South Korea, said that he has now translated Heng Sour’s sound bite and given it to authorities in South Korea, adding that he knows Heng Sour and has spoken to him in the past.
“I used to respect him,” Yim Sinorn said. “But I am very surprised after listening to the vicious death threats contained in this recording.”
“His plan to kill [Hun Sen’s] opponents and set up traffic accidents to hurt people should never have come from an educated person like him.”
“I cannot accept this,” he said.
Cambodia’s Labor Ministry said in March that more than 100,000 Cambodians were working overseas in 2017, with Thailand hosting about 88,000, nearly 6,000 in South Korea and 2,300 in Japan.