Prime Minister Hun Sen last week said he expects his ruling Cambodian People’s Party to win handsomely at the general election in 2018 following the dissolution of the opposition party.
Speaking at a gathering of garment workers in Kandal province, the longtime prime minister appealed to the Cambodian people to “resist foreign interference” in Cambodian affairs.
He added that he had asked the United States to reclassify Cambodian debt as aid. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the request.
He took credit for solving malnutrition after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, urging voters to “continue to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party and offer a chance for your uncle [Hun Sen] to be prime minister for the next ten years.”
At a recent Asean summit in the Philippines, he said he raised the debt issue with U.S. President Donald Trump, saying he described the debt as “like taking a hammer to hit us and asking us to pay for the hammer.”
David Josar, U.S. Embassy spokesman, said: “We’re not going to have any comment on the Prime Minister’s comment on US debt.”
However, Hun Sen claimed he said “sorry” to Trump for raising the issue, to which he said Trump replied, “No problem, thank you”.
Political observers said Hun Sen has effectively been campaigning for the 2018 election for some time already.
Yoeung Sotheara, a legal monitor with election watchdog Comfrel, said last week that if the election was to be considered “free and fair”, space must be given to other political parties to campaign as well.
“You shouldn’t detract from your competitors and create the chance for yourself to announce your voice alone, in order to attract support, but not let others do the same. That’s not fair competition,” he said.