Accessibility links

Breaking News

Cambodia's Hun Sen Lashes Out at EU Over Brexit

FILE - A pedestrian shelters from the rain beneath a Union Jack-themed umbrella near the Big Ben clock face and the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament in central London, following the pro-Brexit result of the UK's EU referendum vote, June 25, 2016.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen took aim at the European Union this week over the United Kingdom's decision to leave the group.

Cambodian political analysts, however, suggested that Cambodia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should learn from what is happening in the EU, in light of warnings that the Southeast Asian union could break up due to disputes over the South China Sea.

Hun Sen said in a speech Wednesday that the vote went in favor of leaving the EU "because the EU gave unclear information."

"After England, there will be more countries to exit, probably Greece … and other countries will leave, as well," he said.

The comments came after the EU and other diplomats raised concerns over pressure being applied on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party from the courts and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.

Hun Sen countered that the EU and Western diplomats failed to understand the country's legal system.

Response to Brexit

On June 23, the U.K. shocked the world when a majority of voters in the referendum on its EU membership favored leaving the union.

The EU Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Pou Sovachana, deputy director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the referendum should be a "role model" of direct democracy that the Cambodian government should seek to emulate.

"Our country and ASEAN, for instance, the South China Sea issues are tearing us apart," he said. "So we should learn how to act with one voice, particularly on issues involving China."

Kem Ley, founder of the Grassroots Democracy Party, said declining U.K. and EU influence in Cambodia would be bad for the Southeast Asian country.

"If the EU and U.K. [are] getting weak, Cambodia will lose as well, because China will eat up Cambodia," he said. "Cambodia will turn to China and will be enslaved by China again."

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.