During his visit to Cuba, Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted the US’ long-time embargo of the small communist nation.
The prime minister’s remarks came while he was being presented Cuba’s highest honor, the Order of Jose Marti, by Cuban President Fidel Castro last week.
“I would like to express my strong position by demanding the lifting of unjust economic sanctions against Cuba,” Hun Sen said during Thursday’s ceremony, according to a Saturday broadcast on Apsara TV. “Sanctions for pressure is not the means for solving problems between sovereign states.”
Hun Sen’s attack of US policy in Cuba comes on the heels of denouncing the UN for recognizing the Khmer Rouge as lawful rulers in the 1980s, and for allowing the Khmer Rouge to participate in the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991.
Both the US and UN have differed with Hun Sen over how to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.
During a scheduled visit next week to speak before the UN General Assembly, Hun Sen is expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss how to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.
The UN has proposed to deal with those allegedly responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979 with an international tribunal made up mostly of non-Cambodians.
But Hun Sen has kept his hard-line stance for a Cambodian-dominated tribunal, stressing that Cambodia needs to maintain its sovereignty.
Hun Sen also said he was pleased with Cuba’s success under its communist government.
“Cuba is still having economic growth and can maintain internal stability,” Hun Sen said. “This is a proud achievement the Cuban people have received in such a difficult situation.”
Earlier Thursday the prime minister had presided at a formal welcome ceremony in Havana’s Revolution Square, which is dominated on one side by a statue of Marti—Cuba’s 19th-century independence hero and writer, Reuters reported.
Hun Sen arrived in Cuba last Wednesday for a three-day official visit, speaking with Castro and touring Cuba’s Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, which produces a number of medical and biotechnological goods, Reuters reported. After some time off he is expected to leave Cuba Wednesday to travel to New York, according to Duong Ratanna, a deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet.
Duong Ratanna said Sunday night that he expects Hun Sen also will visit his children living in New York, and is scheduled to return to Cambodia Sept 23.
Cambodia and Cuba were distant pro-Soviet allies during the 1980s. Between 1985 and 1991 Hun Sen led a communist government in Cambodia, and like Cuba was subjected to a western embargo imposed after the Vietnamese occupied the country in 1979. When Hun Sen took firm control of the country after 1997’s factional fighting, the US cut non-humanitarian aid to Cambodia.
The collapse of the Soviet Union helped force a withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia and UN-sponsored elections took place in 1993.
Though Hun Sen lost the elections, he was included in a coalition government and took firm control of the country in bloody factional fighting in 1997 that angered the US, causing it to cut non-humanitarian aid to the Cambodia.
Cambodia also lost its seat in the UN as a result of the 1997 fighting. The UN voted only last year to restore Cambodia’s spot in the UN after Hun Sen’s victory in the 1998 elections allowed him to again regain control through legitimate means.
(Additional reporting by Seth Meixner)