Singapore’s elder statesman, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, privately said in 2007 that the Cambodian government was “too personalized around Prime Minister Hun Sen” and that Cambodia’s 1999 admission to Asean had “muddied” the regional body’s shared dislike of communism, according to a leaked US State Department cable published on the Internet Tuesday.
In an Oct 16, 2007, meeting in Singapore with the US ambassador and a visiting US deputy assistant secretary of state, Mr Lee reportedly reiterated his well-known dislike for Burma’s military junta, calling its generals “dense” and “stupid” for having “mismanaged” the country’s natural resources, according to a cable published by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
Mr Lee is also cited as saying Asean had been wrong in the late 1990s to admit Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, countries he said remained underdeveloped and did not share the older Asean members’ “common values and an antipathy to communism.”
“Those values had been ‘muddied’ by the new members, and their economic and social problems made it doubtful they would ever behave like the older Asean members.”
While Mr Lee described the Vietnamese as “bright, fast learners,” he said “Cambodia has not recovered yet from its difficult history, and the political system is too personalized around Prime Minister Hun Sen.”
A month after the reported remarks, Mr Hun Sen led an official delegation to Singapore with Cambodia’s ministers of Foreign Affairs and Commerce.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that he was still studying the US State Department cable and the Singaporean Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
In a separate cable published last month, Mr Lee was also quoted as saying in 2009 that Cambodia, Burma and Laos fell the most deeply under the influence of China of all of Asean’s members.
Cambodia’s admission to Asean in 1997 was delayed after combat broke out in Phnom Penh between forces loyal to First Prime Minister Prince
Norodom Ranariddh and Mr Hun Sen, then second prime minister.
Concurrent with a string of extrajudicial killings recorded by human rights workers, Mr Hun Sen emerged victorious but at great cost to the government’s reputation and relations with aid donors. Despite persistent allegations, the government has denied responsibility for the subsequent killings.
Singapore in 1999 publicly hailed Cambodia’s admission as the 10th and final member of Asean.
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