Prime Minister Hun Sen today threatened to boycott next month’s Asean-Australia Special Summit after apparently listening to leaked telephone calls between opposition members about upcoming international “pressure”, Agencies report.
“To the extremist group, please be careful. Seiha listens every day,” he said in a speech to garment workers, apparently in reference to a pro-government social media personality who frequently leaks secretly recorded conversations damaging to opposition figures. The premier appeared to be warning the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, a group founded by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy that the government has branded a “terrorist” network.
According to Hun Sen, CNRM members said yesterday in a private phone call that the United Nations would put pressure on the Cambodian government, as would a collection of Asean nations and Australia at the upcoming Asean summit in Sydney in March. He then appeared to threaten to not attend the summit, saying that “if there is no Hun Sen, there will be no Asean” and that he could boycott the meeting or veto any joint statements.
“I’ll just give the reason that in 2018 I cannot go abroad because I am busy with the election,” he said. “This means Australia won’t be able to hold the meeting. If there is no consensus it is impossible.”
Though he floated the idea of not attending, the premier said he still planned to be there, but reserved the right to veto any joint statement if met with pressure or resistance.
Miguel Chanco, lead Asean analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the summit would likely go on without Hun Sen in the event of a boycott.
“Certainly, China – Cambodia’s main ally – would not want to see a complete boycott as Hun Sen’s government has traditionally defended Beijing’s interests in such meetings,” he said in an email.
However, Chanco noted that even if Hun Sen does himself boycott, a delegation could veto any measures in his place.
The premier went on to remind the audience of garment workers that he had served as Asean president in 2002 and 2012, and would do so again in the next four years. Hun Sen also bragged that he is the second longest-serving Asean leader, after the Sultan of Brunei.
“When I become Asean president this time, should I do the meeting in Phnom Penh, or Siem Reap or Sihanoukville?” Hun Sen mused.
“Many big countries will come, including the US.”