World Bulletin/News Desk
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has stirred disquiet after praising a military unit which has been heavily implicated in human rights abuses and political killings.
The former Khmer Rouge commander - who has been premier for more than 25 years - gave a speech Monday thanking the troops of the notorius Brigade 70 for their loyalty raising a furious reaction from activists.
Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said Tuesday that Hujn Sen was bound to give praise because "it's his baby."
"I think it shows Cambodian rule is still at the level it was 20 years ago - there's still a lot of internal strife and violence and the sad reality is the government doesn't get away from this mentality of preparing for civil war."
Phil Robertson, deputy-director for Human Rights Watch in Asia, told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that “Since 2000, Brigade 70 personnel have been implicated in political arrests, murder and attempted murder, physical assault, illegal detention and beatings and detainees, almost with complete impunity.”
The unit celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday with a 1,000-strong parade at their headquarters on the outskirts of Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
"I would like to express my deep gratitude and thanks to all the patriots from all generations who have sacrificed their beloved children, grandchildren, husbands and relatives to serve the military to protect our beloved motherland," Sen said, according to the Daily.
The brigade’s commanding officer, Mao Sophan, returned the platitudes, referring to Sen and his wife Bun Rany as the "heroes of the Cambodian people.”
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun and Defense Minister Tea Banh also attended the celebration.
The brigade, which used to provide the premier’s personal bodyguard, has been involved in violent crackdowns and has terrorised and tortured the country's citizens, according to human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch claims the unit arrested political opponents, who were often tortured, and that the brigade was instrumental in a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally in which 16 people died.
The brigade has also been accused of involvement in corruption, such as smuggling illegal timber.
Despite spending several years as Khmer Rouge soldier, Hun Sen eventually fled the regime to join the Vietnamese resistance, becoming one of the leaders of the rebel army that helped force Pol Pot from power.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Ekim 2014, 12:54