Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said countries outside Indochina are too critical of politics in the region and Southeast Asian nations should be left to solve their own problems.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Vietnam, Hun Sen pointed to the international condemnation of his country’s recent election, which was seen by many as a farce after the main opposition party was dissolved.
He also cited the international outcry over the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.
“Countries which are outside of the region always slap our heads and tell us what to do,” Hun Sen said at a panel discussion on Wednesday with Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
“I raised this issue, not as a message for any particular country, but I would like to say that these Mekong countries are the political victims, so I request outsiders of the region who don’t know about the issues to let us solve our problems.”
Hun Sen, 66, has been in power for 33 years. His Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 parliamentary seats in a July general election that the United Nations and some Western countries called flawed because of the lack of a credible opposition, among other factors.
Last week, Cambodia’s one-party legislature confirmed him for another five-year term, cementing his status as one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved late last year ahead of the election.
At the forum, Hun Sen also said Myanmar – whose military has been accused by the United Nations of carrying out mass killings and gang rape against its Rohingya minority with “genocidal intent” – was misunderstood.
Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities, saying its military carried out justifiable operations against armed groups.
“It’s accused of genocide, but do you all understand about Myanmar? Do you know about Myanmar? They have to solve a lot of challenging issues in relation with security,” Hun Sen said.
“The countries that do not know our countries, please leave us to solve our problems for ourselves.”