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One Month on, Cambodia Has Mixed View on Trump Presidency

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to members of the media as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Feb. 20, 2017.

Cambodia observers said this week that the country could learn a lot from the current uncertainties in the United States since the election.

A month on since President Donald Trump took office he has shown a markedly different approach to his predecessor, Barack Obama, when it comes to foreign policy dealings.

Cambodia observers said this week that the country could learn a lot from the current uncertainties in the United States since the election.

Raymond R. Leos, professor of communications and media at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, said the current events in the United States should encourage young Cambodians to take an interest in the rule of law.

“No matter who the person is, what position they are, they have to follow the law. And the court also have to decide base on the law not politics.”

Having lived in Cambodia for more than a decade, American national Leos added that recent battles between Trump and the judiciary had shown the strength of the U.S. Democratic system.

“There is lot of history in the United States that the decision of the court is against the president’s. And that is the strength of democratic system in the United States.”

Ear Sophal, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College, Los Angeles, said young Cambodians could see how resilient the U.S. democratic system was.

“No-one is above the law, not even the President of the United States,” he wrote in an email.

“In Cambodia, 25 years after UNTAC, things have changed dramatically. In the US, you cannot have an imperial president. The President is not above the law.”

Ty Lim Kosal, 24, a masters degree student studying in the United Kingdom, said Trump had reneged on numerous promises he made during his campaign.

“It looks like the United States itself is questioning its democracy, whether its check and balance system is effective and efficient,” Kosal said.

Ou Virak, president of Phnom Penh-based think tank of the Future Forum, said that unlike in Cambodia, generally the American people dare to express their voice, as a result they trust the court system and law enforcement officials.

“Our public officials aren’t independent. In the U.S. the public officers aren’t belonging to a political party.”

Yim Sovann, opposition spokesperson, said the clear role of the three branches of the U.S. government and its strong check and balance system are the reasons why it became powerful.

“Unlike in the United States, our court system isn’t independent, particularly in political complaints. The three pillars don’t function strong enough, which is why Cambodia couldn’t move forward.”

Phay Siphan, government’s spokesman, said that the reactions of the American people and the courts responding to Trump’s presidency at the beginning of his term was rare.

“It’s strange that the American people have quickly responded to Trump’s act. Normally, it takes two or three years for American people to react.”