US-Cambodia Relations to Stay Strong
As business mogul and reality television personality Donald Trump was announced as the next president of the United States yesterday, Cambodian political figures called for continued good relations.
Shortly after president-elect Trump gave his victory speech in New York yesterday afternoon, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump in the past week, took to Facebook to congratulate him.
“Several days ago I publicly supported your candidacy, after which several individuals came out to criticize me and referred to you, Mr. Donald Trump, as a dictator,” he wrote, noting that he had also been called a dictator.
“At this moment, the American voters have shown their choice to elect your excellency the same way as my support for your candidacy is not wrong either,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Mr. Hun Sen’s comments were echoed by acting opposition leader Kem Sokha. On Facebook, he praised the Republican victory in all three branches of government.
“I believe that the policy of the Republican Party which values human rights and freedoms of people will continue, especially for me who has received cooperation since I was a president of the non-governmental organization CCHR [Cambodian Center for Human Rights],” he wrote.
He called the news a boost for democracy, human rights and freedom for Cambodians.
His daughter, Monovithya Kem, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s public affairs deputy, linked to her father’s comments on Twitter before offering her own more candid response.
“In retrospect, should had bought gold,” she wrote on Twitter yesterday afternoon.
Chak Sopheap, the present CCHR executive director, yesterday said she was surprised at the election result and saddened for those who had hoped for a female president.
“Amid the shock and frustration, the lesson we could learn is the equal playing field afforded to both candidates during the election process and the free and fair environment in which citizens could freely make their own choice. Cambodia can take inspiration from this aspect,” Ms. Sopheap said.
She added that it was too early to draw any foreign policy conclusions, especially with regards to Cambodia.
“We can only hope the newly elected president ensures that the US respects its legal obligations in respect of human rights and continues to play its role in a liberal international order, in which democracy and human rights are top of the agenda.”
Ou Virak, a political analyst and president of the Future Forum, warned that a Trump presidency would likely be very unpredictable.
“For Trump, I believe there will be some changes that are of concern to the international community,” he said.
“He seems unclear on what he is doing. He talked about Russia but makes no clear policies, which may harm the world. I hope President Trump would not do something stupid to the market of Cambodia’s garments.”
Hang Puthea, spokesperson for Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC), described the US elections as offering lessons, both positive and negative, for Cambodia.
“I think the use of the electronic system for voting, and voting by mail, is very convenient for voters, but we do not want to copy the whole thing from the US,” he said.
“So I would say the NEC will learn some good points from the US but not all of it. I also think that it’s good that presidential candidates expressed their feelings and accepted the result after it came out,” he said.
Speaking at an event at the US embassy yesterday that featured live updates of the election results, embassy spokesperson Jay Raman stressed that US-Cambodia ties would remain strong.
“Our focus right now is to work as best as we can through the rest of [President Barack] Obama’s administration,” he said.
“Obama will be our president until January 20 next year. After that, a new president will take office and determine the direction of relations with Cambodia, but if you consider trade and relationships to remain [strong]...you can expect that no matter who won.”
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