Last week, Hun Manet, the eldest son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who now serves as commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, was in Singapore for his first visit in his current capacity. The trip highlighted the defense aspect of the relationship between Singapore and Cambodia amid ongoing domestic transitions in both Southeast Asian states.
Cambodia and Singapore initially established their relationship back in 1965 and have continued to maintain ties in spite of occasional differences. The relationship has been in the spotlight of late following the fallout from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent remarks on Southeast Asia’s history when paying tribute to Thailand’s recently deceased former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda. Lee had characterized Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, which took place in 1978 and ousted the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, as being an invasion and occupation that challenged regime legitimacy. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in response that the remarks suggested Singapore’s support for genocide. It was just the latest manifestation of lingering differences between Southeast Asian states on aspects of the region’s historical legacy.