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Southeast Asia, explained

Cambodia's premier: don't be a homophobe

"Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles."
Hun sen gay 2012 12 17 0Enlarge
Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, in 2012. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambodia's strongman premier is not known for his poignant appeals for tolerance.

Here's a quote, cited by Human Rights Watch, that reflects his take on dissenters in Cambodia: “I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead ... and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.”

And yet, the tough-talking prime minister has come out with a welcome -- but awkwardly worded -- statement encouraging Cambodian society to accept homosexuals.

As the Associated Press reports, he publicly stated that "there should be no discrimination against them just because of their destiny ... most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles."

This is all the more confounding given his take, in 2007, on his adopted daughter's lesbian coupling. According to China's Xinhua outlet, he kicked her out of the house and worried aloud that her "girls" would bring bombs and poison to his home.

So has Hun Sen had a change of heart?

Was he just looking to score politcal correctness points last week on United Nations' Human Rights Day -- a day that might otherwise draw attention to his dismal human rights record?

And might he show some of that tenderness towards his Cambodian detractors who are locked up for daring to criticize his rule?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/cambodias-premier-dont-be-homophobe