Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday endorsed Donald Trump for president of the United States, saying the controversy-plagued real estate developer and reality TV host would bolster world peace by reducing tensions between the US and Russia.
Speaking to senior police officials at the Police Academy in Kandal province, the premier weighed in on the US election and backed the Republican nominee, who faces opponent Hillary Clinton at the polls this Tuesday.
“For me, frankly, I want Trump to win the election,” said Hun Sen, who, come Election Day, will have seen out five US presidents during his three-decade rule.
“If Trump wins, the world might change and it might be better, because Trump is a businessman and a businessman does not want war.”
Accusing Clinton of advising current US President Barack Obama to attack Syria, the premier opined that, if elected, the Democrat nominee, who he referred to as “Clinton’s wife”, would make US-Russia relations difficult.
“But if Trump wins, Trump and [Vladimir] Putin might become friends,” he said, saying he based his reasoning on Clinton’s autobiography, in which she revealed she had pushed Obama to arm rebels in Syria.
“It is a complicated thing, but we will know in a few days.”
Despite reducing the Democratic candidate to her relationship to her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, Hun Sen has in fact met Hillary Clinton on several occasions including in 2010 and 2012 when she visited Cambodia in her role as US secretary of state.
Trump, whose campaign has featured a near-endless stream of controversies and gaffes, has attracted support from equally controversial figures on the world stage, including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un and an array of far-right politicians in Europe.
However, it’s his cosiness with Putin, whose leadership the magnate has praised on multiple occasions, that’s attracted the most criticism, with Clinton calling him Russia’s “puppet” and questioning his business interests in the country.
Though Hun Sen’s praise may do little to sway swing voters in the US, analysts yesterday suggested more practical reasons were behind his comments.
Researcher Lee Morgenbesser said all evidence suggested a Trump administration would drastically scale back US commitment to defending human rights in the region, effectively giving Hun Sen’s government a “free pass” to “further crush its political opponents”.
“In this way, there would be little tangible difference between how China and the [US] engage with Cambodia,” Morgenbesser, a fellow at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University in Australia, said via email.
“This would be to the benefit of Hun Sen, but few others.”
Paul Chambers, professor of international relations at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University, said Hun Sen was also sending messages to the east.
“By saying this, Hun Sen is trying to show the Russians that he is on their side in Southeast Asia and thus deserving of more assistance,” Chambers said, via email. “He is also sending a signal to Washington that without more assistance he could turn to Moscow.”