Though they share the same chairman and senior management, a Malaysian think-tank that recently presented Prime Minister Hun Sen with an ASEAN “lifetime achievement” award is “not part” of the Sunway Group, which owns the prominent Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, according to the institute’s chief executive.
At the 13th ASEAN Leadership Forum in Vientiane on August 6, Hun Sen received the honour from the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI), whose chairman and co-founder, Dr Jeffrey Cheah, also chairs the massive Malaysian property and construction group, which he co-founded.
The company, which employs 14,000 people, owns the Sunway Hotel near Wat Phnom and was previously slated to develop a satellite city in Chroy Changvar district, though reportedly sold its stake in 2011.
Five of the eight members of ASLI’s board of directors are also senior Sunway Group management, according to its website.
But reached via email last week, ASLI chief executive officer Michael Yeoh said the body was an independent non-profit think tank and not a part of Sunway, though it shares the same chair and co-founder.
“The Sunway Group is not at all involved in the decision-making of the ASEAN Lifetime Achievement Awards,” Yoeh said, via email.
“The Award was also presented at the same event to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar besides Samdech Hun Sen.”
“I don’t believe the Sunway has any business interest in Cambodia other than its long standing Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh.”
However, reached via telephone, another staff member of ASLI, who declined to be named, said the ASLI and Sunway were “partners”, though they also said the firm had no influence in the award.
Representatives of the Sunway Group did not respond to requests for comment.
Prior to receiving the award, Hun Sen said the recognition reflected his work in fostering a harmonious relationship between China and ASEAN.
Cambodia has been repeatedly accused of supporting Beijing on the divisive South China Sea dispute to the detriment of other members of the bloc. However, the Kingdom’s representatives says the country is simply neutral.