November 11, 2016
Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s Trump Card
by Mish Khan, Associate Editor
Cambodia reacts to Trump’s divisive success.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken to Facebook to congratulate Donald Trump’s success in the United States presidential elections.
Donning a Trump-esque red cap and seated in a golf cart, Hun Sen wrote:
I would like to congratulate HE Donald Trump for achieving victory in [the] US presidential election.
Several days ago I have publicly support your candidature, till several individuals have come out to criticise me and referring to you, Mr Donald Trump, as a dictator to have endorsement coming from a leader like myself.
At this moment the American voters have shown their choice to elect your excellency the same way as my support for your candidacy is not wrong either.
Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for three decades, was referring to backlash from headlines last week when he endorsed Trump for president. He stated on Thursday, “If Trump wins, the world might change and it might be better, because Trump is a businessman and a businessman does not want war.”
In contrast, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party openly blasted both Trump and Hun Sen last week, with officially exiled leader Sam Rainsy criticising them as two of a kind.
“Birds of the same feather flock together. Trump seems to believe in the absolute power of money. Hun Sen seems to believe in the absolute power of the gun coupled with money… Trump and Hun Sen are definitely not democrats.”
Michelle Obama and Cambodia’s Buny Rany meet Cambodian students
Although many analysts claim a Trump administration will probably not represent a major shift in US policy towards Cambodia, which is not of great strategic importance to the United States, a win for Trump could still be a major win for Hun Sen.
For one, a Trump presidency would have much less to say about violations of democracy and human rights in a regime notorious for such abuses.
“For years, Hun Sen has been frustrated by the constant lectures by Western governments about how he runs his country, and the fact that Cambodia so often seems to be ‘singled out’ for criticism over human rights violations. Now there’s a president-elect who has shown little interest in delivering these kinds of lectures,” said Sebastian Strangio, the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia.
This has been eerily confirmed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Spokesman Sok Eysan stated, “Trump’s vision would seem to be beneficial for Cambodia, as a small country, as he won’t be like the leaders of the big countries … They want to consider us as children, and evaluate us poorly without respecting sovereignty and independence.”
Furthermore, rebuking Trump may have lost Sam Rainsy a powerful ally in the US — which would be a major blow to his endeavours to oust Hun Sen’s rusted on regime in July 2018 elections.
“Sam Rainsy says Donald Trump is a dictator, and the opposition party used to rely on the US… How will they continue to rely on the US if Sam Rainsy has called the new president a dictator?” asked Eysan.
Mish Khan is Associate Editor at New Mandala and a fourth-year Asian Studies/law student at the Australian National University.