PHNOM PENH —
Though they doubt President-elect Donald Trump’s leadership credentials, Cambodians say they hope that the United States continues its relationship and cooperation with the country to promote human rights, democracy and economic growth.
Last November, the U.S electorate voted for Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, to lead the U.S. His election has put some countries in the world on edge due to his alleged relationship with the Kremlin and his unpredictable opinions on foreign policy, which is anathema to president Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
The U.S mainstream media ranging from CNN, the New York Times, to the Washington Post, have written numerous stories that reprimand Trump on his fiscal position and other policies, including banning refugees from war-torn countries from entering the U.S, his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, extraditing millions of illegal immigrants working in the U.S., and banning Muslims from entering the U.S.
Recently Trump has been criticized by one of the most powerful world leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump is swearing into office Friday.
Cambodian analysts said they were concerned that Trump’s leadership would bring Cambodia, the Asean region and the world to an era of uncertainty.
Ou Virak, president of Phnom Penh-based think tank Future Forum, said that Trump’s taking office as the U.S president was a test of the relationship between the U.S and the world.
“Allies from Europe to Japan and Asean are left not knowing what’s next and whether America [will] continue to be [a] reliable ally. This is the same for Cambodia. It will be the America-China relationship that will determine the fate of Southeast Asia,” he wrote.
He added that under the leadership of Trump, with his ambiguous foreign policy, an arm race would likely to take place.
“I think the risk of a new arm race in the world is now a real threat to regional security. It would be the same for Cambodia,” he said.
“Another danger is a possible beginning of a new cold war politics where small countries like Cambodia could again be used as pawns.”
Chan Sophal, director of the Center for Political Studies, agreed.
“The Republican likes to use force, power, to solve problems. I think that Mr. Trump’s character and his implementing of the Republicans’ policy will make him a politician who likes and implements policy with force. And we are not sure what the result will be, since his [Trump’s] character has never been seen before among the U.S leaders.”
Though he said he has no faith in Trump’s presidency, Sophal hopes that under his leadership, Cambodia’s economy will improve.
Mu Sochua, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker for Battambang, said that she believes that the U.S will continue its mission to improve and promote human rights and democracy.
“If there’s a lack of spirit and foundation of human rights and democracy, the development of the economy will not take place,” she said.
However, Ken Rotha, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, said that he believes that under Trump’s leadership, Cambodia’s economy will boom.
“It [the economy] will improve at some point since [Trump] is a businessman. Cambodia’s [economy] will improve along with the U.S,” he said.
Chum Sounry, foreign ministry spokesman, said that under Obama’s leadership, Cambodia and the U.S had cooperated well on improving the economy and the tourism sector, fighting against terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and on military training and land mine clearance.
“We have seen that previously relationship and cooperation between both countries has been improving satisfactorily. I hope that when the U.S.’s new government comes to term, the relationship and cooperation between both countries still continues to improve.”
In November, after Mr. Trump was elected, political experts warned that his presidency would negatively affect the U.S’s effort to improve human rights and democracy abroad.
Trump has actively used social media website Twitter to attack his critics.
Chheang Vannarith, president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said that under Trump the world will be left with a feeling of uncertainty.
“The U.S’s foreign policy will become more unilateral and bilateral, less multilateral. Economic nationalism and protectionism will likely breed trade wars. The U.S.’s global role and image will be declining,” he wrote.