PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen made reference to the frontrunner in the race to be the Republican party’s nomination for the U.S. presidential election this year, poking fun at what he called “problems” in America’s election race.
The long-serving Cambodian premier was speaking at an annual financial reform conference in Phnom Penh when he made off the cuff remarks about Donald Trump, who has made headlines for his statements on the campaign trail, including on foreign policy issues. Trump has called for a large wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexican border, and has suggested that the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country.
Hun Sen said Monday he was not sure what would happen if Trump goes on to be elected as president of the United States.
“Mr. Trump has not won the election yet. If Mr. Trump wins the election in the U.S, [we] don’t know what the situation would be. Now, parties, including the Republicans, [try to] prevent Trump from wining the election,” he said, referring to ongoing efforts by the party’s establishment to block Trump from the nomination.
Hun Sen also gently mocked the somewhat chaotic U.S. election campaign, in which some protests, namely at Trump’s rallies, have turned violent. In the past, the Cambodian People’s Party leader has hit back at comments from officials in Western countries, including the United States, criticizing his government’s violent suppression of protest, or questioning the validity of elections that delivered CPP victories.
“The situation in the U.S. is different now. There are some problem with the campaign this time—road blocks and bad words,” he said, adding with a note of sarcasm: “This is their new improvement.”
Like Hun Sen, Trump has been likened to a strongman. But the self-proclaimed billionaire businessman has won votes with his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” and is leading in the Republican primaries. He appears the toughest challenger to the most likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Ou Virak, president of Phnom Penh-based think tank Future Forum, said that Trump’s popularity was raising concerns around the world among people of different political leanings.
“What he has raised is his extremism, which could affect the world’s interests. And, as I have said, it is a mutual worry since everyone loses. The person in power for a long time like Mr. Hun Sen is worried, and I, who adhere to democracy, am also worried,” Virak said.
“I welcome [Hun Sen’s] comments. I think his interest in [U.S politics] reflects that he is following the election that could affect not only the situation in the U.S, and political climate in the U.S., but also the political situation in the world, especially in a hot area like Southeast Asia. Hence, Cambodia should pay attention to the process.”