During a speech at a business dinner on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen chided recently departed U.S. Ambassador William Todd, saying that he was “bored of advice” from foreign diplomats, and that he should be the one teaching them about “change.”
Speaking to hundreds of businesspeople on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, Mr. Hun Sen boasted of his adaptability over the past 30 years in power and scolded Mr. Todd for trying to impress upon him the importance of change during a farewell meeting between the two earlier this month.
“The other day, I talked with the U.S. ambassador before he left Cambodia,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “When he talked with me, he talked a lot about what he called change. I replied to him: ‘Have you forgotten who you are talking to?’”
“Your Excellency, you are talking to a professor who can teach you or your country’s president, or prime ministers of other countries, about change,” he said.
“If I didn’t know about change and could not manage the process of change, how could I stay in power for more than 30 years?”
Mr. Hun Sen said that he told Mr. Todd that the U.S. should take a critical look at its role in conflicts in the Middle East.
“I told him that because America cannot manage the change in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, there are ISIS groups doing activities there,” the prime minister said, going on to explain the economic changes in Cambodia over the past three decades.
“Cambodia has changed from a planned economy to a market economy through making reforms,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“I, myself, have led the reforms by awarding land ownership to the people, by privatizing factories and firms so that the market can currently support the process of the development of the country,” he added.
“Are these not changes? Does changing only mean changing leaders or what is called a ‘color revolution’?”
The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on Mr. Hun Sen’s remarks.
Political analyst Ou Virak said that after the ruling party’s significant losses in the 2013 national election, Mr. Hun Sen was still attempting to defend his performance as prime minister, and that the U.S.—a frequent critic—continued to be a favorite target.
“So this is basically a defensive mechanism for Hun Sen to protect his ego,” Mr. Virak said of the prime minister’s speech. “I think it’s his frustration with the inability to connect with America and Western world probably.”
Mr. Virak said that those in the audience on Saturday, including a number of tycoons with close ties to the ruling party, were likely unfazed by the speech.
“It’s basically a repeat—ongoing rhetorical stuff that has been going for a while, and I think people are not paying attention anymore,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)