Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM Hun Sen draws on Trump, coins 'Peace First'



PM Hun Sen draws on Trump, coins 'Peace First'

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Hun Sen speaks to graduates at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh on Thursday. Photo supplied

PM Hun Sen draws on Trump, coins 'Peace First'

Updated: 6:48am, Friday March 23, 2018

Prime Minister Hun Sen broke into English to tout his newly dubbed policy of “Peace First” in a speech on Thursday, drawing on US President Donald Trump’s motto of “America First”.

Speaking to graduates at the National Institute of Education, the premier said peace is “invaluable” to Cambodia.

“It is similar to Donald Trump saying ‘America First’, but we say ‘Peace First’,” Hun Sen said, saying both slogans in English.

“If there is no peace, nothing can happen. Do not be doubtful, that is it. This is the most significant thing,” he continued.

Hun Sen has often linked peace to his rule, claiming that without him to steer the country, Cambodia would again collapse into anarchy and civil war.

But just as Trump’s “America First” motto has been criticised for its isolationist and xenophobic undertones, many have seen the premier’s invocations of “peace and stability” as a thinly veiled justification for an ongoing crackdown on the political opposition and dissent.

Hun Sen and other ruling party officials have justified the dissolution of the country’s only viable electoral competitor – the Cambodia National Rescue Party – by alleging that it was planning a foreign-backed “colour revolution”.

Since the dissolution, the premier has repeatedly touted peace and stability, while security officials have vowed to defend it at all costs.

Officials on Wednesday attend the release of Interior Ministry’s annual report, which vowed to continue the crackdown on so-called ‘colour revolution’ ahead of the July elections.
Officials on Wednesday attend the release of Interior Ministry’s annual report, which vowed to continue the crackdown on so-called ‘colour revolution’ ahead of the July elections. Heng Chivoan

Preap Kol, director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that while peace is essential, it should not be invoked to justify rights violations.

“I think it is important that the Government and ruling party ensures social justice, respect for human rights, genuine democracy and free and fair elections without which peace might likely be interrupted,” he said via email.

The “Peace First” declaration wasn’t the first time Hun Sen has shown affinity for President Trump. He has approvingly noted Trump’s attacks on the free press, and at an Asean summit in Vietnam, he told the US leader during a glowing speech that he was “a wonderful president for me”.

In similarly Trump-esque fashion, Hun Sen on Thursday went on to praise himself on achievements of questionable merit.

“Tomorrow our civil servants can get the salary. Our country pays the salary before the end of the month, how many countries over the world do this?” the premier said of this month’s planned Khmer New Year pay advance.

Hun Sen also bragged the government was able to pay teachers more than their civil society counterparts, and claimed Cambodia offers the fifth-highest minimum salary to government employees in Asean.

However, Miguel Chanco, lead Asean analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said holiday advances were “not particularly unique to Cambodia”, noting they also take place in Vietnam before Tet.

As for coming in fifth in the 10-member bloc, Chanco said state salaries had been “inflated” due to Cambodia’s “patronage” system – in which subordinates must be kept on side – and its “bloated bureaucracy”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration