PHNOM PENH —
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday made reference to the front-runner in the Republican Party's race to nominate a candidate for U.S. president, poking fun at what he called "problems."
Addressing a financial reform conference in Phnom Penh, the country's longest-serving premier made numerous off-the-cuff remarks about Donald Trump, who has made global news headlines for campaign trail comments on foreign policy issues, including calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and ban all Muslims from entering the country.
Hun Sen also gently mocked the seemingly chaotic U.S. election, in which some protests — primarily at Trump's rallies — have turned violent. In the past, the Cambodian People's Party leader has hit back at comments from officials in Western countries, including the United States, that criticize his government's violent suppression of protest or question the validity of elections that delivered CPP victories.
"The situation in the U.S. is different now. There are some problems with the campaign this time — roadblocks and bad words," he said, adding with a note of sarcasm: "This is their new improvement."
Like Hun Sen, Trump has been likened to a strongman. But the self-proclaimed billionaire businessman has won votes with his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," and is leading in the Republican primaries. He appears the likely challenger to the most likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
"If Mr. Trump wins the election in the U.S, [we] don't know what the situation would be," said Hun Sen, adding only that he's aware of ongoing efforts by the Republican establishment to block Trump's nomination. "Now parties, including the Republicans, [are trying to] prevent Trump from winning the election."
Ou Virak, president of Phnom Penh-based think tank Future Forum, said Trump's popularity is raising concerns around the world among people of different political leanings.
"What he has raised is his extremism, which could affect the world's interests, and, as I have said, it is a mutual worry since everyone loses. The person in power for a long time like Mr. Hun Sen is worried, and I, who adhere to democracy, am also worried," Virak said.
"I welcome [Hun Sen's] comments. I think his interest in [U.S politics] reflects that he is following the election that could affect not only the situation in the U.S, and political climate in the U.S., but also the political situation in the world, especially in a hot area like Southeast Asia. Hence, Cambodia should pay attention to the process."
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.