Cambodia's Hun Sen says he and Trump object to 'anarchic' media

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia’s authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed sympathy for U.S. President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward the media, saying both he and Trump saw the media as stirring anarchy.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smiles as he arrive at the National Assembly of Cambodia during a plenary session, in central Phnom Penh, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Hun Sen, whose rule of more than 30 years has been marked by accusations of human rights abuses and corruption, said Cambodian journalists who reported on human rights could undermine national security.

“Donald Trump understands that they are an anarchic group,” Hun Sen said of journalists at an event on Monday, in comments later posted on his Facebook page.

Hun Sen had said before the U.S. election in November that he hoped Trump would win as he would be good for world peace.

Political tension has been increasing in Cambodia in recent months as opponents of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla, accuse him of unfair maneuvering to maintain his grip on power in local elections in June and a general election next year.

Hun Sen has warned that an opposition election win could lead to the return of civil war.

He has long dismissed Western concerns about human rights, democracy and corruption.

Last week, the U.S. embassy said it was deeply concerned about legislation introduced by Hun Sen’s ruling party to make it easier for the government to dissolve political parties, saying it restricted freedom of expression and legitimate political activity.

The change to a 1998 election law gives the government the power to dissolve parties under what the embassy described as “vaguely defined circumstances”, including incitement, promoting secession or anything that could harm national security.

Hun Sen criticized what he said was the media’s focus on human rights, which he said could endanger peace and security.

“Anarchic human rights are rights that destroy the nation. I hope foreign friends understand this,” he said.

The media in Cambodia has for years enjoyed more freedom than that in many of its neighbors.

Hun Sen has often accused U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America radio of supporting opposition parties. Media, in particular domestic outlets, are frequently accused of being unfair to his government.

Trump has regularly attacked the media and last week he criticized news organizations that he said put out “fake news”, calling them the “enemy of the American people”.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Robert Birsel