See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

Hun Sen does not need the west, he has China

The firebrand leader of Cambodia has railed against foreign intervention while courting Chinese goods and investment.


Written by

Updated: March 1, 2018

Hun Sen has been in power for over two decades. In that time, he has consolidated power, built a cult of personality and promoted close allies and family members into positions of leadership.

Ostensibly, Hun Sen is a democratically elected leader. But erstwhile military man is not taking any chances ahead of elections. He has taken steps in recent months to clamp down on the opposition party, arrest and detain prominent critics of his regime, and hold sham elections where his party was the only one on the cards.

As the Phnom Penh Post commented on recent senate elections:

“Absent any legitimate competition, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party swept all 58 elected seats in Sunday’s Senate elections, giving it near-absolute control in the upper house of parliament.”

International Response

The international response to Hun Sen’s actions have been swift and forceful. International rights groups universally condemned Hun Sen’s shutting down of the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Rights groups and foreign governments also criticized the government’s decision to arrest prominent anti-government critic and opposition leader Kem Sokha.

In response to Hun Sen’s actions, the United States said it would be cutting aid to several assistance programs in Cambodia due to ‘recent setbacks to democracy.’

Some programs supporting Cambodia’s Tax Department, military and local government will be cut or reduced “to ensure that American taxpayer funds are not being used to support anti-democratic behavior”, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“We urge the Cambodian government to reconsider its current course,” Sanders said in a statement as reported by the Phnom Penh Post. “Specifically, the government should release jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha, reinstate his party, the CNRP, and allow civil society and the media to continue their legitimate activities.”

According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia, aid disbursements amounted to roughly 8 percent of the country’s GDP. A significant blow should the United States – and US linked organizations – decide to spend their money elsewhere.

Despite this significant loss, and the possibility of more losses, Cambodia were bullish in their response to US actions.

In a statement, government spokesman Phay Siphan defended Cambodia’s track record as a liberal democracy and called the US decision “dishonest,” as reported by the Phnom Penh Post.

“This is a sanction on the people who love real democracy,” Siphan said, adding that the government would continue to fight “foreign interference and colonisation”.

A Chinese alternative

Perhaps the reason that Cambodia remains defiant despite repeated warnings from western aid groups and nations is that it has found a different benefactor in Beijing.

According to the World Bank, foreign direct investment accounted for over 10 per cent of Cambodia’s GDP with Chinese capital making up a sizable portion of that percentage.

According to the Asian Development Bank, China has been Cambodia’s largest benefactor since 2010 and that figure does not include loans and investments made by the Beijing controlled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Hun Sen has courted China on infrastructure projects, trade deals and military cooperation, in return Beijing gets a ready ally in ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nation.

Cambodian cooperation has helped China postpone ASEAN consensus on numerous issues where Beijing has vested interest including the South China Sea dispute.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

Brexit deal refusal to have limited impact on Korean economy

Seoul vows to speed up efforts for Korea-Britain bilateral trade deal, bracing for post-Brexit era. The British parliament’s latest rejection of the government’s proposed Brexit deal is likely to have a limited impact on global financial markets as well as the South Korean economy, Seoul’s government said Wednesday. Vowing pre-emptive steps to counter a possible fallout, Korean authorities will work on preparations for a bilateral free trade deal with Britain, as the latter will no longer be subject to the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement upon Brexit. “The vote to reject the Brexit deal was seen to have a limited impact on global financial ma


By The Korea Herald
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

Beijing rebukes French, German ambassadors

Beijing says award for Chinese lawyer is politically motivated. Beijing on Wednesday slammed the French and German ambassadors to China after they granted a human rights award to a detained Chinese lawyer, saying their wrongdoing gravely violated China’s internal affairs. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China has lodged stern representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction, as well as firm opposition, to the ambassadors’ action. The relevant case is purely judicial, which has nothing to do with human rights, the ministry said. The wrongdoings of Germany and France gravely interfered with China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty, the ministry said. China urges the ambassadors of relevant countries to do more to develop bilateral relations and enhance political mutual trust, not the opposite, it added. The lawyer, Yu Wensheng, was detained


By China Daily
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

Singapore-Malaysia relations still ‘good’, says Malaysian Foreign Minister

Ties between Malaysia and Singapore are still “good” despite ongoing air and maritime disputes between the two countries. “Our relations with Singapore remain good. There are some issues but we are talking to each other, and that is very important,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday (Jan 16), “Most importantly, the discussions are going on. I am confident the discussions are moving in the right direction.” He said five senior government officials will meet with their Singaporean counterparts to discuss ongoing issues. Besides Mr Saifuddin, the others are Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Foreign Ministry secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob. Both Singapore and Malaysia are currently locked in two separate disputes – over 


By The Straits Times
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

Bangkok grapple with shortage of masks as smog smothers city

The Thai government is trying to resolve a dangerous air pollution problem in Bangkok, by seeding clouds to produce rain and using water cannons to clean streets and the air. After spending several days choking on high levels of fine particle dust, many Bangkok residents have opted for masks to protect themselves. But some were unable to find the N95-grade face masks required and are calling for the authorities to cover the shortage. Meanwhile, an online poll conducted by The Standard online magazine among 2,200 residents on Monday (Jan 14) and Tuesday revealed that 50.3 per cent wore masks to protect themselves, while the remainder complained they could not find one.


By The Nation (Thailand)
January 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

China accuses Canada of double standard

Beijing slams Justin Trudeau’s criticism of drug smuggler’s death sentence. China on Tuesday expressed strong dissatisfaction at the Canadian prime minister’s criticism of a drug smuggler’s death sentence, urging the country to respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that drug crimes are recognized worldwide as serious crimes and are extremely harmful to the society. She said all countries severely crack down on the issue and so does China. Remarks made by a “relevant Canadian person” lack the spirit of rule by law, she said, urging the Canadian side to correct the mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian national convicted of smuggling over 222 kilograms of methamphetamines, was sentenced to death on Monday at


By China Daily
January 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics, Politics

South Korean defense paper doesn’t label north an enemy

Ministry also says the north has specialized battalion for assassination of key figures. The Defense Ministry does not directly refer to North Korea as an enemy and takes a less hostile tone toward the communist state in its 23rd white paper published Tuesday. The ministry’s latest biennial white paper — the first to be published since the Moon Jae-in administration came to power in 2017 — addresses security threats, military policies and the regional security environment. Perhaps most notably, the Defense Ministry eliminated the phrase specifically describing North Korea as South Korea’s “enemy,” a move that appears to reflect


By The Korea Herald
January 16, 2019