Friday, 30 March 2018

A Post-Mortem: Hun Sen’s Dishonour

“The summit will be used for the [Australian] prime minister and ministers actually to engage their counterparts or aspects of our relationship, including the matter [Hun Sen’s threat of violence] that you [Australian senator Penny Wong] have raised today.”

Australian Foreign Affairs Secretary Frances Adamson, 5 March 2018, The Phnom Penh Post

«… រឿង​អី​ដែល​ [​យើង​] ​ត្រូវ​ហោះ​ពី​កម្ពុជា​ទៅ​ឲ្យ​គេ​ស្ដី​ឲ្យ​នៅ​ប្រទេស​អូស្ត្រាលី?អូស្ត្រាលី​គួរ​តែ​អរគុណ​កម្ពុជា ​មិនមែន​ហៅ​កម្ពុជា​ទៅ​ស្ដី​ឲ្យ​នោះ​ទេ កុំ​ច្រឡំ។​»​

នាយក​រដ្ឋមន្ត្រី​ហ៊ុនសែន  ថ្ងៃទី២២ កុម្ភ: ២០១៨  ភ្នំពេញប៉ុស្តិ៍​ 

According to Hun Sen, his trip to Australia is a resounding success. Among other claimed achievements, he boasts an Australian official development assistance (ODA) of A$87.40 million; he brags about travelling with a motorcade escort and a small Cambodian flag flying on an official car. He flatters himself that his visit is an honour for Australia.

Yet, the success seems far from being resounding. Hun Sen may not realise Australia has pulled a fast one on him. The ODA amount is already in the Australian May budget last year for 2017-18 handout to Cambodia. This means, whether he turns up or not, Cambodia has already secured it. Moreover, if he must know, the amount is few million dollars less than that of the previous year. This is not something Hun Sen should brag about unless he intends to mislead his supporters.

The ODA stunt allows PM Malcom Turnbull, who insists on “frank engagement” with all ASEAN countries, to rein in Hun Sen and take him to task behind closed door on his violence threat to Australian citizens, democracy, human rights, and the July elections. Hun Sen must be satisfied with the Australian trick as he does not carry out his threat to use his ASEAN veto to block the Sydney Declaration at the end of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. He has been prepared to be the Summit spoiler. Incidentally, it does not seem a great begging year for Hun Sen. The US announces cut to an aid they have already cut; now Australia approves the aid that they have already committed.

Furthermore, at the Sydney Summit Hun Sen is treated as if he is an ASEAN leader of no significant consequence. While those leaders are courteous to each other with polished and respectable manners, they appear to marginalise his presence. First, at a group photo of the leaders with an Opera House background, they choose to ignore Hun Sen; he says he has been busy in the toilet. Some would quip he must be suffering the effect of the dummy burnings – more severely than he has anticipated.

Second, on a Sydney Harbour ferry trip, the ASEAN leaders congregate leaving Hun Sen alone on front row seats. As there is no published reason for the isolation, public speculations abound. Perhaps they do not wish to be associated with him when they see protest photos and negative headlines in local newspapers about him annihilating his political oppositions. They may think the Cambodian premier needs to do some serious thinking and leave him to it. They may be right as Hun Sen does not look lonely, but being in deep thought, perhaps working out how to pursue those dummy burners home to beat them up.

While Hun Sen may be right that he is not flying all the way to Sydney to be lectured on sensitive issues, he may not learn from Australia that his absolute power is limited to Cambodia. Outside his comfort zone, he can be dishonourable and humiliated, can’t he?

Ung Bun Ang

By the Way

The crack within CPP is becoming clearer with a leak from senior CPP figures. Stay tuned – more leaks will come out unless there is a CPP implosion.

“<Hun Sen was told by the Vietnamese very bluntly that he’d been in power too long and it was time to go,> the insider with close ties to senior figures in the premier’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), which is believed to be divided over his tactics to sideline the main opposition party, told Asia Times.”

Reporter Alan Parkhouse, Hun Sen Willing to Risk Losing his Oldest Ally, 27 March, 2018, Asia Times

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