Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen wins little-known tourism award, shortlisted for Chinese ‘peace’ prize

Hun Sen wins little-known tourism award, shortlisted for Chinese ‘peace’ prize

Prime Minister Hun receives the honorary title of “Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals” at a ceremony on Saturday in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun receives the honorary title of “Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals” at a ceremony on Saturday in Phnom Penh. Facebook

Hun Sen wins little-known tourism award, shortlisted for Chinese ‘peace’ prize

Prime Minister Hun Sen has had a good week on the international award circuit, having been announced a finalist for a “peace” prize and the recipient of a global “tourism” award – though in both cases the awarding institutions seem to exclusively lavish praise on autocratic leaders.

In a lively ceremony and banquet event at the Peace Palace on Saturday, Hun Sen accepted the title of “Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals” from Anton Caragea, president of the little-known Romania-based European Council of Tourism and Trade (ECTT), whose selfdescribed goal is to “market and promote tourism and investment opportunities outside of the European Union”.

After accepting a framed certificate, accompanied by a light blue sash, from Caragea, Hun Sen described Cambodia as a peaceful country where democracy, human rights and development can thrive, as opposed to countries at war like Iraq, Libya and Syria.

“Do not forget that the election, democratisation process and human rights happen only in the peaceful country only,” Hun Sen said. “When war breaks out, not only the democracy and democratisation process, but even also the right to life is also absent.”

Political analyst Meas Nee said he was proud to see praise for Cambodia’s booming tourism industry, but he thought it was problematic for the nation’s tourism to be praised during a crackdown on oppositional voices.

“If they do not consider the current political situation, it could make them unable to attract as many tourists as before,” he said.

This was not the first honour for Cambodia given by the ECTT. It named Phnom Penh its “World Capital of Culture and Tourism” earlier this year and in July last year it found Cambodia to be the “World’s Best Tourism Destination”.

A month later, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded Caragea in turn, naming him “Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia” in a royal decree dated July 13, 2016.

Eurocham Cambodia advocacy manager Blaise Kilian said the organisation had never worked with ECTT before, and Cambodian Tourism Federation President Thourn Sinan said he had never heard of the organisation before last year’s recognition, though the award, he said, would provide a “good reputation” for the country.

Caragea is listed as the head of several international think tanks, each focusing on tourism and foreign relations, and has exchanged awards with leaders from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Shortly before Caragea visited Phnom Penh last week, he met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro through the Institute of International Relations and Economic Cooperation (IRICE), another organisation he chairs. According to the IRICE website, Caragea hopes to strengthen the relationship between Romania and Venezuela, as each country believes in “respect for national sovereignty”. The increasingly dictatorial Maduro has been cracking down on dissent as he tries to cling to power amid an economic crisis.

Other recipients of ECTT’s tourism awards include Zimbabwe, for 2014’s “World’s Best Tourism Destination”, with Caragea having handed a framed certificate to now-deposed President Robert Mugabe, infamous for human rights offences throughout his 37-year reign.

Neither Caragea nor any representatives of his associated organisations could be reached for comment yesterday.

Elsewhere on the awards circuit, the premier was named a finalist alongside Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for another scrutinised honour, the Confucius Peace Prize. Known as China’s alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, it has been previously given to leaders accused of human rights abuses, including Mugabe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Analyst Meas Nee noted that the Confucius prize formerly recognised promoters of peace, but has morphed into an opportunity to applaud autocrats.

“Before, they recognised someone who tried their best to promote peace, but now they provide the award to individuals who use violence [to rule].”

MOST VIEWED

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • Jab drive heading to 5 provinces

    The government is set to vaccinate more than 1.2 million people in five provinces after finishing with Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal in an ongoing campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. The five provinces are Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham

  • New immigration bill targets illegal foreigners in Kingdom

    General Department of Immigration (GDI) officials are discussing revisions to the new draft law on immigration to prevent foreigners from entering Cambodia illegally and to supervise those living in the Kingdom more effectively. The revisions draw wide support among civil society organisations. GDI director-general Kirth

  • School reopening can’t wait

    With the Covid-19 pandemic now well into its second year, safely reopening schools has become an urgent priority. School attendance is critical for children’s education and lifetime prospects. The long-term costs of closures – both for individual children and society – are simply too large to

  • Kingdom set to be a gold producer

    Cambodia will soon join the roster of gold producing countries after the government announced the commencement of commercial gold mining operations in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province's Keo Seima district from June 21. Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 10 announced that after 14 years of