February 21, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen reveals the closeness of his relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying they are now at the stage where they refer to one another as “brother”.
Hun Sen was addressing 2,000 graduates of the Human Resource University (HRU), in a ceremony held in Phnom Penh on February 20.
“Apart from the general state to state relationship befitting our positions, we keep in touch with each other with regular phone calls and text messages,” he said, noting that they communicate mainly through WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
Hun Sen met with Macron in Paris in December 2022, a day prior to his co-chairmanship of the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit marking 45 years of dialogue relations between the two regional blocs, in his capacity as the rotating chair of ASEAN.
“We have strong bilateral relations of course, but more importantly, we have worked together on security, regional and international issues, although I cannot reveal the details. The French president gave me his phone number,” he said.
“We promised to stop using each other’s surnames. I call him Emmanuel, because Macron is his family name, and he calls me Sen, not Hun Sen. We have a close relationship.
“Last December, I asked [Council for the Development of Cambodia secretary-general] Sok Chenda Sophea to help me send greetings to Emmanuel in French … He [Marcon] did not reply immediately, but when he did, it was in Khmer. He called me ‘Bong Sen’,” he said, using the Khmer kinship term for addressing someone who is older.
“I don’t know how many people at the Elysse Palace can speak Khmer, but there must be at least one,” he said in jest.
Hun Sen said Macron was a respectable and well-mannered president, with a clear-sighted view of the world. He expressed his respect for the French president, adding that he had done an excellent job managing international affairs.
“Macron also respects Cambodia’s role on the international scene,” he added.
“Macron is a close, frank and trusted dialogue partner, and will strengthen the friendship between Cambodia and France. Thank you Emmanuel, for the warm relationship,” he posted to social media, following their Paris meeting.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on February 20 that Cambodia-France relations have made remarkable progress in recent years.
“Relationships between the leaders of two governments are important in contributing to the development of relations between the countries. When high-profile leaders have a strong relationship, it contributes to raising the level of relations and cooperation between the two countries,” he said.
“When two leaders truly understand one another, their intimacy can be a bridge which links their nations together. When leaders cannot communicate, it can lead to misunderstandings. When they are able to speak frankly, relationships tend to be deeper,” he added.