The Cambodian American man who threw his shoe at Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in May said he finally got his shoe back and plans to sell it for charity.
Ouk Touch, 72, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he was glad he got his shoe back months after throwing it at Hun Sen during a summit in Washington, D.C., between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May.
The shoe was reportedly a pair of Clarks shoes worth $85.
“I want to sell it so I can help the poor, victims and those who don’t have food to eat in Cambodia. I want to sell it for $1 million,” Touch, who was a Cambodian soldier in the 1970s, said, adding that anyone interested in the item may contact him directly.
The incident occurred on May 11 when a protester, later identified as Touch, threw a shoe at Hun Sen during his two-day trip to Capitol Hill.
Touch recalled officials condemning him even though the shoe did not hit the Cambodian prime minister. In several Asian cultures, showing a person’s shoe sole to someone else is seen as an offensive act.
“My action, it was just throwing a shoe at Hun Sen. But Hun Sen threw grenades at the Cambodian people, peaceful protesters,” Touch told RFA. “Hun Sen is a dictator, and he has killed many people, including my relatives.”
Even though Cambodian authorities called for the U.S. to punish Touch, he told RFA that he was neither charged nor investigated for the incident, saying, “I wasn’t summoned to court. It has been quiet.” He added that he had been planning the shoe incident “for a long time” and recalled sleeping better after his protest.
Days after the incident, Hun Sen reflected on his encounter with Touch while speaking to volunteer healthcare workers from the Samdech Techo Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA) on May 17, questioning whether what happened was freedom of speech or an act of violence.
“Please don’t forget that it was the U.S. who was responsible for my security there,” Hun Sen said, according to The Phnom Penh Post.
“Does the US regard this as freedom of speech or an act of violence? That is my question for them. I am not preaching to them, but the U.S. must clear this up for me. I hope that the U.S. ambassador in Phnom Penh will send the entirety of my message to the U.S. administration.”
Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Municipal Court recently jailed 60 opposition figures, including Cambodian American lawyer and human rights activist Theary Seng, for conspiring to commit treason.
Responding to Touch’s decision to sell the shoe for charity, Cambodian government spokesperson Phay Siphan told RFA that “Cambodia can’t accept it, Cambodia regards this action as an insult.” He then said that he respects U.S. authorities’ decision not to charge Touch for his action.
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