Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that he would meet the recently-appointed ambassadors of Germany, Japan and the US. He stressed that Cambodia still maintained good relations with the international community and dismissed critics saying otherwise as “silly”.
“Some critics claim I follow the East to counter Western influence but cannot because the West is stronger. Many western countries like Germany and France have already told us they will continue to do business with us, as will European institutions including banks,” Hun Sen said.
He was speaking at the commencement ceremony for 4,038 Build Bright University students on Monday at Koh Pich Convention Centre in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen revealed that he is to meet the trio of new ambassadors on Wednesday. They are Japanese ambassador Masahiro Mikami, German ambassador Christian Berge and US ambassador Patrick Murphy, who was formally received as the US’ envoy by King Norodom Sihamoni over the weekend.
“I have to receive the three ambassadors because [they] have already shared their credentials and are waiting to meet with the Prime Minister tomorrow. The first meeting is with the new Japanese ambassador at 9am.
“At 10am, I am to meet with the Federal Republic of Germany’s ambassador and then in the afternoon I am to meet with the US ambassador.
“Next week it’s time for Asean [meetings] and Asean has the plus-3 and plus-1 bodies. [I] will attend the meetings and speak honestly there. You have to speak clearly because Asean follows a consensus.
“They cooperate with [the Royal Government], you have to understand and if [you don’t], you are silly. Go to school and learn. Don’t just shout,” Hun Sen said, referencing critics who claim that Western democracies do not acknowledge the government.
“This is the state government and it represents the [Cambodian] nation . . . don’t be foolish and pose as an intellectual when I can see that you are weak and always blame our education system,” he said adding that Cambodia will also host the Asia-Europe meeting next year.
International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia director Kin Phea told The Post in an interview that Murphy would focus discussions on the US’ commitment to strengthening relations, promoting trade and cultural and environmental causes.
“The new [US] ambassador will not raise any sensitive topics that may damage relations. Murphy’s tweets and the US Embassy’s Facebook posts indicate that they are committed to maintaining relations. I believe that the US ambassador, who is an experienced diplomat, will not raise any hot issues that may lead to confrontation,” Phea said.
US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg told The Post via email that Murphy has been waiting to meet with Hun Sen and other government officials since he was formally received by the King.
In a tweet following the ceremony, Murphy said: “After presenting credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni, I will look forward to meeting with members of the Royal Government of Cambodia and discuss efforts to strengthen ties between our two great countries.”
Cambodia-US relations have been strained of late as the US Senate mulls the Cambodia Democracy Act 2019 which threatens to impose sanctions due to perceptions over the Kingdom’s human rights conditions and alleged shrinking of its civil space.
The yet to be enacted bipartisan law calls for the suspension of the Kingdom’s access to the Generalised System of Preferences and threatens to freeze the assets and impose restrictions on Cambodian leaders.