Coronavirus an excuse for Cambodia’s poverty plight

Trade sanctions and an exodus of Western and Chinese investors take their toll on defiant Hun Sun.

When the Europeans decided to slice US$1 billion worth of trade preferences off Cambodian exports in response to a sharp deterioration in human rights and democratic values, Prime Minister Hun Sen was as defiant as he was cavalier.

Never shy on the international stage and always one to take advantage of the tools at hand, he immediately seized upon the outbreak of the coronavirus and — ignoring health precautions taken elsewhere — allowed a cruise ship to dock and kept his country open for business with China.

That bravado won him fans at home amid the reassuring message that the rights of passengers trapped on the Westerdam were more important than lost dollars to the European Union and that Cambodia was virus-free, with the implication that the world had lost its marbles over a bug.

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