Cambodia’s veiled criticism of Chinese vaccines hints at Hun Sen’s foreign policy plans

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that his government will only purchase coronavirus vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), adding that his country cannot become a dumping ground for vaccine trials. The comment appeared to be a departure from Cambodia’s prior commitment to purchasing Chinese vaccines, as well as a potential criticism of countries, like Indonesia, that have allowed trials of Chinese vaccines.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Health has rejected media reports that Hun Sen has shunned Chinese vaccines. But media coverage of the comments has raised questions about whether the Cambodian prime minister is under pressure domestically to push back against China’s rising influence in the country and to change his policy of accepting everything that Beijing has to offer.

Hun Sen may be wary of the perception that his government bends to Beijing’s wishes, as it gives the impression that Cambodia no longer has an independent foreign policy.

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