Following an unprecedented show of opposition from city’s Cambodian-American community, the Lowell City Council voted 8-0 to denounce the visit of Lt. General Hun Manet, son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and reject the gift of a statue the Cambodian regime wanted to place in front of Lowell City Hall. Following the cancellation of Hun Manet’s proposed appearance in the Cambodian New Year’s Parade in Long Beach, California, this represents a major public relations setback for the Hun regime, and a notable show of political force by the traumatized Cambodian refugee community in America. Hun Sen, once a military commander for the Khmer Rouge, is a career human rights violator whose crimes did not end upon his elevation to head of state following the Vietnamese defeat of the K.R. Minority groups, civil society organizations, trade unions, and political opponents have all suffered greatly under his tyranny.
Lt. General Hun Manet is Hun Sen’s 39-year-old son, and a Lt. General in the Cambodian Armed Forces. His abortive goodwill tour, meant to improve the Hun regime’s image in the United States and present it as the rightful head of a unified Cambodian population, has done precisely the opposite. It has brought the current Cambodian government’s shameful human rights record to greater public attention, laid bare the profound disgust and opposition America’s Cambodian population still feels towards a leadership lead and riddled with genocidaires, and, at least in Lowell, won them new allies in the municipal political community.
I was proud to be able to stand with the brave and passionate Cambodian residents of Lowell who organized the protests and made this formal denunciation happen. The expressions of gratitude I received from the protestors – special credit to resistance organizer Kamara Kay – have touched me deeply. When my name was announced as the next speaker and I stepped to the lectern, I was greeted by expressions of wary disbelief from the City Councilors and other officials. When I finished my remarks, I was brought nearly to tears by the reaction of my new allies. Both will stay with me for a long time.
This is my town, and these are my neighbors, and we don’t need any gifts bought with blood money to bring us together or mark the ascendancy of Lowell’s Cambodian-American population. They did that all by themselves last night.