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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM Hun Sen lavishes praise on China

PM Hun Sen lavishes praise on China

A police officer walks past a banner hanging outside the Peace Palace
A police officer walks past a banner hanging outside the Peace Palace during the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Phnom Penh earlier this week. Several other China-friendly banners were on display. David Boyle

In his first public speech following this week’s ASEAN summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen offered lavish praise for China’s financial largesse and congratulations for its newly appointed Communist Party heads.

His words come in the wake of the third and final ASEAN summit Cambodia will chair and at which, yet again, analysts concluded China exerted undue influence on the regional meet through its close friend.

Speaking to thousands of villagers during a ceremony to inaugurate National Road 8 in Prey Veng linking Cambodia to Vietnam, Hun Sen said Chinese grants had led to substantial development.

The $107 million Prey Veng road, said Hun Sen, was built with an $83 million loan from the Chinese and would go far to helping improve the lives of rural Cambodians.

“On behalf of the government and people of Cambodia, I would like to express thanks to the government of China for providing grants and loans to Cambodia for social and economic development,” added Hun Sen.

He also reiterated that he had requested $300 to $500 million in annual loans from China to build at least 4,000 kilometres of roads. On Sunday, Hun Sen met his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, and inked trade agreements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the meeting, Hun Sen also requested further development aid, and Wen Jiabao agreed to grant $52 million for water resource development and said he would consider providing more, Hun Sen’s spokesman said at the time.  

During yesterday’s speech in Prey Veng, Hun Sen also congratulated China’s new Communist Party General Secretary, Xi Jinping, who last week was confirmed as the head of the seven member politburo.

It is expected that Xi Jinping will become president in March.

“We appreciate Xi Jinping and other Chinese politicians in his office, and we wish for them to be successful within this new mandate,” said Hun Sen.

“Xi Jinping visited Cambodia in 2009 and I already knew him, therefore it will be easier for further relationship ties between China and Cambodia.”

A Chinese Communist Party delegation will visit Cambodia on December 7 to 8, he added.

Cambodia has repeatedly come under fire this year from observers and diplomats alike for doing China’s bidding at ASEAN, particularly in pushing their position on the South China Sea.

In July, after the bloc failed to issue a joint communiqué for the first time, Cambodia was accused of placing China’s interests above ASEAN unity.     

Though this week’s high-level summit ended without such a bang, the hints of Chinese influence loomed large.

From the banners strung up outside the Peace Palace welcoming Wen Jiabao (the only signs posted outside the building), to the Chinese-built Council of Ministers which housed the media, China’s role was apparent.

In his speech yesterday, Hun Sen stressed that the special welcome received by Wen Jiabao was because he was the only leader to arrive early on an official state visit.

“A number of media outlets were wrong to comment on the arrival of head of states,” he said.

“Only Wen Jiabao  received an official reception with patrolling troops at the Peace Palace, because [only] he paid an official visit to Cambodia.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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