The Cambodian prime minister has vowed to beat up protesters if they burn effigies of him at a summit of South-East Asian leaders in Sydney next month.
Hundreds of Cambodians living in Australia are expected to rally against Hun Sen when he attends the summit between Australia and the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations [Asean] in mid-March.
Cambodia’s democracy is under attack, with the country’s main opposition party dissolved last year and the jailing of opposition leader Kem Sokha. Independent news outlets have also been shut down.
“I want to remind those who plan to demonstrate against me that my visit is an honour for their government,” Hun Sen said in a speech, according to translated subtitles.
“If they burn my effigy … I will pursue them to their houses and beat them up.”
Hun Sen has also threatened to “shame” Australia and block the release of a joint statement if he faces pressure over the political crackdown.
“Hun Sen can block the release of any statement between Asean and Australia… Australia cannot pressure Cambodia. Don’t dare,” he said. “If you treat me inappropriately, I will hit back and leave shame on your face at the scene,” Hun Sen added.
It would not be the first time Cambodia has used its intransigence to block or dilute an Asean statement.
In 2012 Asean foreign ministers failed to release a joint communique for the first time at the end of their annual gathering, with the Philippines blaming event host Cambodia for blocking criticism of Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.
Cambodia was also accused of forcing the group to water-down criticism of Beijing in a statement issued at the end of a 2016 meeting.
Cambodia’s crackdown in recent months has pushed the country closer to China, which has lavished the country with cash, while rattling relations with the US and EU, who pulled support for July elections after the opposition was disbanded.
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An Australian filmmaker James Ricketson is in jail in Cambodia, facing spy charges after flying a drone over a political protest in the capital Phnom Penh last June.
He faces five to 10 years behind bars if convicted.
Last week, exiled former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Ricketson was a scapegoat and his arrest was designed to frighten and deter foreign journalists from writing critical reports of Hun Sen’s government.
This story was originally published in theguardian