Hun Sen lauds Trump for being a “most respectful” person, but also criticises the US embassy for interfering with the nation’s internal affairs
At a speech for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a warning to US President Donald Trump to call off the US embassy officials in Cambodia for ‘violating’ the US president’s policy of non-intervention.
In recent months, the Cambodian prime minister has been leading a movement to crack down on what he and other government officials deem as US interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs. In September, Hun Sen called on US Peace Corps volunteers to be removed from the country after suggesting that the US was aiding the opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in conspiring to invoke a ‘colour revolution’.
The US embassy has denied all of these claims.
Hun Sen also took his speech at the Asean summit, which addressed world leaders who were both present and abroad, as a moment to praise President Trump for his “most respectful” person and his remarkable leadership.
“You are a wonderful president for me…We want you to be strong and develop and be independent in your own country, trying your own efforts, for your people,” the Phnom Penh Post quoted the prime minister as saying.
During the 2016 US presidential election, Hun Sen was also quick to throw his support behind the Republican nominee, reasoning that Trump would lead to a better world.
He was quoted as saying that: “Frankly speaking, for me, I really want to see Trump win the election. If Trump wins, the world will be changed and will be better because Trump is a businessman and as a businessman he never wants war.” His support for Trump was something not shared by the CNRP opposition party.
Trump getting chummy with #Cambodia‘s Hun Sen, despite the latter’s repression of freedoms and strident anti-American turn. But all political offenses dissolve in the warm bath of #ASEAN2017 summitry pic.twitter.com/RFiTWJUWDt
— Sebastian Strangio (@sstrangio) November 12, 2017
Hun Sen later went on to rebuke Trump’s entities abroad, namely the US embassy in Phnom Penh, saying that it did not align with his policy of keeping out of the affairs of other countries.
“Your policy is being changed but the embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed it yet,” he said.
His critique continued as he went on to address Trump in the public forum by once again asking the US to forgive Cambodia’s 1970s war debt; a debt that the nation accrued during the Lon Nol regime after borrowing approximately $200 million from the US to help feed refugees impacted from the war.
With interest, the debt is now closer to $500 million.
“It is like you get the hammer to hit on us, and we are going to pay for the cost of the hammer,” Hun Sen said.
Despite the lambasting of US interference, Camboda’s leader didn’t refuse the opportunity to take a selfie with President Trump. The two leaders were captured shaking hands yesterday in a photo opp, with the US president beaming back with an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
The Cambodian prime minister was also seen to be getting chummy in photos with other world leaders attending the Asean summit, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Besides Trump’s thumbs up, Canadian and Australian PMs Trudeau and Turnbull also more friendly with Hun Sen tonight pic.twitter.com/uRvmgDujp3
— Alex Willemyns (@alexwillemyns) November 12, 2017