PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed a dinner of powerful businessmen Saturday night, claiming he could be a “professor” to Western leaders, who are beginning to bore him with their advice.
Hun Sen said his policies have moved Cambodia from a “planned economy” to a free-market one after decades of civil war, making it an attractive place for investors.
“I am really proud of the policies of the party, as well as my leadership, which has been responsible for the executive body for over 30 years,” Hun Sen told the attendant tycoons. “I understood clearly that you all would deposit your money abroad or would use your money to buy homes abroad, ignoring investments here.”
Instead, his policies have grown the wealthy class, increasing business activities, Hun Sen said. This has made him “bored” with advice from countries of the West, he said. That includes the outgoing US ambassador, William Todd.
U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd gives a speech during a repatriation ceremony to honor the recovery of possible remains believed to belong to missing U.S. military service members found in Kampong Cham province.
“I met with the US ambassador before he left Cambodia,” Hun Sen said. “When he was talking with me, he talked a lot about change. I then said to him: ‘Don’t forget whom you are talking with. Your Excellency is truly talking with a professor who can teach you or the president of your country or other prime ministers on change.’”
“If I can’t discern change, or change the process, would I have been able to stay in power for more than 30 years?” Hun Sen said. “I’m bored with some of the advice provided by some countries to Cambodia.”
The US has failed to control political change in the Middle East, where the Islamic State is on the rise, Hun Sen said. “I told [Todd] that ISIS is able to conduct its activities over there because the US can’t control change in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, said it is true that Hun Sen has had a long rule, but Cambodia is not a model for any other country. It is plagued by human rights abuses and reliant on donor nations.
“If we wanted Cambodia to be a model country, and the leader’s experience of this country to be learned by others, there would have to be a lot of reforms,” he said.
Cambodia has shifted from getting financial support from the West to receiving aid from China, but that does not mean Cambodia can stand on its own, he said. Still, it is true that in order to change, the country relies on Hun Sen, he added.