Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off the Khmer New Year holiday on Friday by condemning the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and in Syria before using an allegory to caution against greed and the hunger for power.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for Angkor Sangkranta at Bayon Temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, the prime minister said that increasing global tensions, exacerbated by U.S. airstrikes against Syrian air bases and increasing talk of war in North Korea, hit close to home for Cambodia.
“As a member of the United Nations, [Cambodia] shares her deep concern about the situation in the Middle East, especially the situation in Syria, and in North Korea,” he said.
“We ask for patience and to try to solve those disputes through negotiation.”
The prime minister appeared to condemn Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack earlier this month as well as the U.S.’s response of a missile attack on a Syrian air base.
“The activities of firing missiles or chemical weapons are tragedies,” he said.
“Cambodia had been a victim of this kind and clearly understands the difficulties of people from war-torn countries.”
Mr. Hun Sen has increased his criticism of the U.S. in recent months, frequently mentioning the damage inflicted by U.S. bombing campaigns during the Second Indochina War in the same breath as demanding a reprieve from Lon Nol-era war debt the U.S. insists Cambodia must repay.
The prime minister then put his own spin on a Cambodian folk tale, describing how two priests—one good, the other bad—died, with the former reincarnated as the king of the kingdom of gods, and the other into a leprosy-infected beggar.
The king descended to Earth to visit his friend, granting an escalating series of requests—first to become well again, then village chief, then commune chief, before eventually asking to control half of the god kingdom. Fed up with the former leper’s demands, the king turns his friend back into a leper.
“If we compare to someone nowadays, there are people that are like that,” he said without naming names, before urging against reading too much into the metaphor.
“This is just a folktale. In everything, please don’t be too greedy so that we can have cooperation…for the unity of our nation for generations to come,” he said.
“Otherwise it causes trouble.”