Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM makes rare visit with royals

PM makes rare visit with royals

Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and King Norodom Sihamoni meet at the Preah Sihanouk autonomous port in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday.  Stringer
Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and King Norodom Sihamoni meet at the Preah Sihanouk autonomous port in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday. STRINGER

PM makes rare visit with royals

LESS than three weeks before voters decide whether he will retain his seat, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday made his first public appearance of the campaign period. After more than a week of restricting his movements to official duties in Phnom Penh, the premier made his way down to Preah Sihanouk province, stopping on the way to greet workers and villagers.

By his side, for the duration of a two-day trip that concludes today, stood a pair of unlikely compatriots: King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath.

“The King and Queen Mother, accompanied by Prime Minister Hun Sen, visited a new rice mill machine in Kandal, then they visited the palm oil farm of Oknha Mong Reththy and looked at some of the products of the company and met workers,” said Kem Gunnawadh, director general of TVK, one of only two media outlets – both government-aligned television stations – permitted to cover the trip.

“In the afternoon of the same day, they visited the port and met about 1,200 port workers.”

Today, the trio is set to plant trees to mark Arbor Day – an annual ceremony presided over by the King but rarely – if ever – attended by Hun Sen.

“The tree planting day is being held in Preah Sihanouk, which is far, so the King has to stay overnight and the prime minister has to accompany him,” explained Gunnawadh. “It is not strange.”

A number of analysts interviewed yesterday respectfully disagreed.

For one, such a trip is all but unprecedented. In January of last year, the premier and King set off on their first joint journey – a two-day bus tour around Mondulkiri province to meet villagers and observe rural development. The Queen Mother and Hun Sen, meanwhile, have never undertaken such travels.

And though there was scant overt campaigning in the course of the day, there could be little doubt that the mere appearance of Hun Sen implied as much, said political analyst Chea Vannath.

“This is happening during the election [campaign] time, so we can speculate that any politician or political party . . . [would] try to come up with significant and noticeable events.”

Following nearly two decades of rocky relations between the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen, the premier has spent much of the last 15 years shoring up at least his perceived relationship with the monarchy. That came to a head upon Sihanouk’s death, after which Hun Sen accompanied the royal family to retrieve the body from Beijing, turned the funeral into a state affair, and even went so far as to make himself the main player in the cremation, claiming that only he had been able to light the funeral pyre thanks to a “miracle” bestowed by Sihanouk.

“This is a new strategy to increase his popularity,” explained political analyst Kem Ley. “[Hun Sen] supports the monarchy, with the understanding that the Cambodian people clearly support the King.”

Whether such a tactic will prove successful is less obvious.

Vannath predicted that the voting populace had grown savvier and “might think that the ruling party is trying to take advantage of their relationship with the King to come up with the best [campaign strategy] they can.”

“[An endorsement] is how the ruling party wants to make that look. But I do not think that the general public thinks that way,” she said.

That very same strategy of involving the monarchy backfired splendidly for the royalist Funcinpec party, pointed out Ley, which failed to “access more popularity”.

Son Soubert, Human Rights Party president and a personal adviser to the King, agreed that voters aren’t likely “to take into account this kind of thing”.

“I’m just sorry for the King and Queen Mother, that they are used by this political party.”

This morning, the trio along with countless other officials will set out to plant saplings. Almost certainly, as in prior years, they will don special Arbor Day hats and T-shirts. There is a new insignia this year featuring a hearty young tree. Above the sapling, sprinkling holy water onto its boughs, floats a familiar angel: the devada from the CPP logo.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is