Embracing China, Facebook and Himself, Cambodia’s Ruler Digs In

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China is Cambodia’s largest benefactor, providing the country with nearly one-third of its foreign investment last year. Beijing has gifted Cambodia 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers.

“In terms of funding for infrastructure, we welcome any country that’s willing,” said Sun Chanthol, Cambodia’s minister for public works and transport. “But so far, only the Chinese are responding so generously.”

The United States and other Western countries, meanwhile, are retreating further. On Feb. 27, the Trump administration announced it was cutting aid to Cambodia because the country’s Senate elections “failed to represent the genuine will of the Cambodian people.” And Germany last month placed visa restrictions on members of the Cambodian government, including on Mr. Hun Sen.

Mr. Hun Sen has long condemned Western powers for treating Cambodians as pawns in a geopolitical game. He has a point: The French colonized Cambodia and the Americans bombed the countryside. A state-building experiment by the United Nations spread graft.

But his government’s accusations have grown increasingly outlandish.

Dissenting voices have been branded as Western agents. Kem Sokha, the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, was detained in September and charged with treason, accused of plotting a United States-funded regime change. He denies the charges.

“The U.S. wants to break up Cambodia and destroy our country,” said Phay Siphan, a government spokesman. “The U.S. is paranoid and wants the Cambodian government to be weak so it can come back to this region and chase China away.”

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