More than 50 people of Cambodian descent came to Tacoma’s South End on Monday to protest their native country’s government — even if the prime minister’s son was never seen.
The protesters believed Cambodian Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, son of 31-year leader Hun Sen, would be arriving at a hotel on South Hosmer Street sometime Monday and came to voice their concerns about human rights abuses in their homeland.
“If we did this in Cambodia, we’d be killed,” said Sovong Voeuk, 48, who lives in Renton but took time off from his job in Tacoma to attend the protest.
If we did this in Cambodia, we’d be killed.
Sovong Voeuk, protester
Voeuk said protesters did not know whether Manet was in the hotel, but said he has hidden from protests elsewhere and that organizers learned he would be at the hotel.
Among the many human rights violations protesters talked of, Voeuk said the government seized land from his cousin’s family and burned their house to the ground in the 1990s, telling the family it was to become a collective garden.
“I’m not for any group, but anyone is better than him,” Voeuk said of Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander. “Who leads a country for 30 years?”
Dozens of Cambodian flags were waving in the wind at the protest, and many protesters held signs alleging human rights violations and denouncing the government.
We want people to recognize we need human rights and democracy in Cambodia.
Vathana Sek, protester
Jeng Quach, 63, carpooled to the protest from Vancouver, Washington, with three Cambodians to protest Manet.
“We want our country to change,” Quach said. “We want him to know he is not welcome here because he is a killer.”
Vathana Sek, 57, came from Seattle, megaphone in hand, to promote human rights in his homeland.
“When people protest, they are hurt or killed,” Sek said. “We want people to recognize we need human rights and democracy in Cambodia.”
Manet canceled a Sunday visit to the Khmer New Year parade in Long Beach, California, because of protests. He is to meet Saturday in Seattle with Mayor Ed Murray and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen to discuss economic development and international relations.