During his official visit to the Republic of France in second week of September 2005, Samdech Hun Sen granted an exclusive interview to Radio France International on issues of Cambodian-French relations, the trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders, land grabbing issues, the country’s border and use of French language. Following are the translations of extracts by the Kampuchea Thmei newspaper.
On the Cambodian-French relations
… Samdech Hun Sen reaffirmed that what is special in the relationships between the two countries lies in the fact that France took up a role and fulfilled its tasks in seeking a political settlement to the Cambodian conflicts in the past, which brought about the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. During his courtesy call on HE Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic of France, Samdech Hun Sen told him that France has been helping Cambodia in two stages. First, in between 1997 and 1998, when Phnom Penh was in difficult situation, France offered help in public order and support to the organization of the general elections. France did not cease or freeze its assistance to Cambodia but continue to provide it. In the 1998 elections, France was leading the EU countries in providing financial and technical assistance. Second, when Cambodia was in its political deadlock after the 2003 general elections, France clearly affirmed that it would continue to provide assistance to Cambodia until a new Government came into being. Every time I met the French delegations, Samdech said, I always heard they said “the French knows full well with whom they should work in Cambodia.” This has been a strong political message which clearly illustrates the French support to Cambodia. Samdech Hun Sen also thanks the French consideration and efforts in helping Cambodia to take care of its culture and heritage, while stressing that he is very proud and grateful to see that all the French leaders have always been deeply interested in the issue.
… In response to the question on how one could compare the relations that Cambodia has with France to that with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Samdech Hun Sen gave his argument that the Cambodian foreign policy is based upon independence, neutrality and non-alignment. Cambodia makes friends with every country irrespective of its religion and/or political tendency. “Some people accused me of making too close relations with a communist county – they mean the PRC indeed. Let us look at the relations between France and PRC, they have a far wider and productive relations with one another, and in a greater size than Cambodia does. Some people play with words that Hun Sen is playing the card of PRC, but let me assure you one thing that PRC is not that fooled to let anyone use it bas a card. What are you going to say if PRC offers to give you assistance? If you say no, you should know how foolish that can be. If I were to compare the two relations – Cambodia-France versus Cambodia-PRC, I would say they are well balanced.”
On Preparation for Trial of the Khmer Rouge Leaders
… Answering to the question about whether or not Samdech Hun Sen is cautious to PRC position in the forthcoming trial of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Samdech Hun Sen clearly stated,
“I have been to PRC for the first time in 1996, again in 1997, 1999, twice in 2004 and three times in 2005, but the PRC leaders and I never discussed about the Khmer Rouge issue. PRC never denies in its own rights to the Khmer Rouge leaders’ trial as it is not trying PRC in that sense. Trying the Khmer Rouge leaders (for the crime they had committed) is purely Cambodia’s internal affairs.” Talking about this Samdech suggested it was the United Nations that granted its support to the Khmer Rouge, why not they do something about this now?
On Self-Exile of Mr. Sam Rainsy
… Responding to the question about the self-exiled Sam Rainsy abroad, Samdech Prime Minister gave his remark that Samdech never sees any political party leader like him as Sam Rainsy always abandons his followers. “I do not think this is a good thing to do as a leader. If I were to be one of Sam Rainsy party member I would have mobilized others to relieve him off his command already.” Samdech gave his analogy to a military commander, who in such a case would never be able to command his troops. A good leader would stay, in time of happiness and sadness, with his supporters.
On Land Reform Issue
… As far as land reform issue is concerned, Samdech Prime Minister said that it has become a complicated problem that requires an appropriate solution as failing to do so would bring us to another “peasant revolution” as that in Samlot in the 1960s. Having witnessed this troublesome issue, the Royal Government in the second term decided to establish a new Ministry to oversee issues of urban planning, land management and construction. The Ministry is bestowed upon with such tasks of seeking the most suitable solution to land problems and issuing our people their land titles. In relations to the fulfillment of the court’s decision in the district of Poi Pet, where fatal conflict occurred, Samdech expressed his gruesome feelings and stated that it was in this incident that Samdech ordered arrest of those who actually caused casualties on the spot. It was taking the court’s decision to extra, Samdech said. In relation to investment, a study has to be conducted to make sure that the land is actually free from our people’s individual ownership. If things happen with the involvement of the military in grabbing lands that belong to our farmers/people, the one and only solution is to take land and give it back to the people. In practice that does not sound easy, and though Hun Sen is said to be a strongman, but in case like that, with negligence, ten more would not do.
On Border Issues
… Some people, Samdech argued, appointed themselves so and so committee for the border issues, and I would judge from their actions so far, that they are just intellectuals losing guidance or a sky-losing moon. Samdech warned that whatever Samdech does has to base on law. It is ridiculous to come up with an argument that Hun Sen sold Cambodia’s land to other countries. On October 10, I will conduct a visit to (the Socialist Republic of) Vietnam to claim back parts of the lands that we lost because of seven points of irregularities, six of which have been resolved already with the last point to be discussed. The irregularities lie in the fact that there are asymmetries in actual mapping — printed in between 1933 and 1953, and later was recognized internationally in between 1963 and 1969 — by the Indochina Geographic Team that does not reflect the decision made by the French General Governor. If the argument of losing land is true, Samdech said it would not be the Cambodian in France or in Phnom Penh to flare up reactions but those living along the borders. But as you can see those people living along the Cambodian-Lao, Cambodian-Thai and the Cambodian-Vietnamese borders voted for the Cambodian People’s Party.
On French Language Issue
… Samdech has in that interview clarified his own efforts since 1980s to strengthen the use of French language in Cambodia as is testified by the re-establishment of the Pasteur Institute, the operation of the Calmette Hospital and the School of Medicine. As a member of ASEAN though, Samdech said, Cambodia has to use English as more and more French speaking senior citizens passed away one after another. The younger generation of Cambodia uses a different language for their study, still French is still useful in Cambodia with many of its institutions are obliged to use it. Samdech stated clearly to the senior French officials that the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, are the three francophone Prime Ministers in Asia who do not speak French, but this is not in fact obstacles to the relationship between Cambodia and France at all.