ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

Southeast Asian leaders pose for a group photo during the 13th East Asian Summit Plenary on the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN summit in Singapore on Thursday, November 15. (AP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

  • Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia
  • The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK: Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.
Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.
In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.
While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.
“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”
The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.
Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.
At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.
Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.
When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.
“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.
Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.
His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.
But Many brushed aside the notion.
“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.


Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

Updated 27 June 2019
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Merkel suffers new trembling spell on eve of G20

  • The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event
  • Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday suffered another episode of uncontrolled trembling, a week after a similar incident that sparked questions about her health.
The latest lapse came hours before Merkel was due to board a plane for the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
The German leader began to tremble as she stood next to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was giving a speech at a ceremony to formally appoint a new justice minister.
The shaking went on for two minutes, according to a DPA photographer who was present at the event.
Merkel folded her arms visibly in a bid to stop the trembling.
She only finally brought it under control once she was able to take a few steps.
She was offered a glass of water but turned it down.
Her previous bout of shaking last Tuesday had been blamed on dehydration on a hot summer’s day.
Despite the latest incident, a German government spokesman said Merkel would not be canceling any appointments on Thursday and Friday.
“The chancellor is well,” he said, adding that she will be flying as planned to Osaka for the G20 summit.
Merkel, frequently called the European Union’s most influential leader and the most powerful woman in the world, turns 65 next month.
She has said she will leave politics at the end of her term, in 2021.
There were brief concerns about her health in 2014 when she was taken ill during a television interview. The broadcast was briefly interrupted when she experienced a drop in blood pressure.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert explained at the time the leader did not feel well for a moment, then ate and drank something and continued the interview.