PHNOM PENH, Feb 7, Phnom Penh Post/ANN -- Prime Minister Hun Sen has cited three points which motivated him to visit China amid a deadly outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Earlier this week while on a trip to South Korea, Hun Sen requested permission from Chinese authorities to visit Wuhan to lend his support to Cambodian students there.
However, the epicentre of the outbreak is in lockdown and Hun Sen was instead invited to visit Beijing.
On Wednesday evening, Hun Sen led a delegation for a short visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to learn more about the situation facing Cambodians studying there.
In a post to his Facebook page, Hun Sen said: “First, I expressed solidarity with the Chinese government and Chinese citizens in this time of difficulty.
“Second, I visited to strengthen the spirit and confidence of Cambodian citizens and students who reside and study in China and are struggling with Chinese citizens.
“Third, I sent messages to Cambodian citizens saying that the disease of Cambodian citizens is not a disease caused by the virus ‘Corona’, but a disease of fear.
“Until now, no Cambodian has contracted this disease yet. Certain countries seem to have waged a psychological war causing fear for citizens.”
Hun Sen also said he had expressed concern for citizens who have been hit by the virus and announced support for the Chinese government, which has taken measures to battle the outbreak.
He said he shook hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, despite the latter just returning from Wuhan. He said he did so without wearing a mask, which he refused to wear as a sign of solidarity with his Chinese counterparts.
The post quoted Xi as saying that Chinese citizens and the Chinese government alike were combating the spread of the virus and the Chinese government is paying attention to Cambodian students residing there.
“Samdech Techo Prime Minister announced support for China and Cambodia is willing to share China’s pain. China thanks Cambodia for its heart.
“In past years, Cambodian and Chinese relations have ushered in a new era of the implementation of a policy of common destiny. This visit can establish relations between the two countries on another new level from now on, ” Xi said.
The prime minister’s decision to visit China was a direct response to critics that challenged him to go to Wuhan after he announced he would not evacuate Cambodian students from the city in order not to offend China.
Social analyst Meas Nee said Hun Sen’s visit to China showed the Kingdom’s commitment to its most important ally, further strengthening diplomatic ties.
He said the move contradicted actions taken by other countries over the outbreak, and despite impressing China, it would not placate detractors.
“Such a short visit seems like both sides didn’t prepare anything significant. Apparently, Samdech Hun Sen decided to go to Beijing in less than 24 hours before boarding the plane.
“When it comes to bilateral meetings between senior officials of the governments of each country, they need to prepare agendas long in advance, leading to other agreements, ” he said.