False claim of Hun Sen’s dual citizenship may change Cambodia’s constitution

The UK-based Guardian newspaper retracted a claim stating Hun Sen had purchased Cypriot citizenship, but the Cambodian prime minister remains on the defensive and is calling for a Constitutional amendment to bar anyone with dual citizenship from holding high political office

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October 9, 2021
False claim of Hun Sen’s dual citizenship may change Cambodia’s constitution

Hello! If you’re based in Cambodia like me, I assume you have returned to work after the three-day break offered by Pchum Ben, a Buddhist festival particular to the Kingdom in which people pay respects to their ancestors. 

All was not peaceful in Cambodia during this respite, following the publication of a Guardian report inaccurately claiming prime minister Hun Sen had purchased a passport from Cyprus. The UK-based newspaper issued a correction, but Hun Sen had already declared the need to amend the Cambodian constitution to prevent people with dual citizenship from holding high public office, including the post of prime minister. Government ministers implored Cypriot officials to investigate the matter, noting the claim “seriously damages [the] honour and integrity of the Prime Minister,” according to an excerpt published in the Khmer Times. 

Acquiring a passport from Cyprus requires an investment there of at least $2.2 million, and members of Hun Sen’s family, including his niece, and his inner circle have applied for or received Cypriot citizenship, Reuters reported in 2019.

As diplomatic commentator Sebastian Strangio noted, Hun Sen himself has questioned the loyalty of political opponents holding dual citizenship, especially the Khmer-French politician Sam Rainsy. The former leader of the now-disbanded opposition party, Rainsy took no time to shove the allegations of the Cyprus passport into his rival’s face through his social media platform.

Whether or not the constitutional amendment is carried out, a phrase triggering widespread blowback and an immediate call for Constitutional reform via a Facebook post from Hun Sen says quite a lot about Cambodian governance. 

While those of us in Cambodia wait to see whether the tempest wrought by ‘passport-gate’ will fade or trigger real changes, we have some pleasant stories for you to peruse. The list begins with a profile of Cambodian filmmaker Kavich Neang, whose debut feature film is enjoying critical acclaim on the festival circuit. 

Cambodian filmmaker Kavich Neang turned the story of the loss of his childhood home, Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building, into an award-winning feature film. Anton L. Delgado and I teamed to report on Neang’s blend of documentary footage and his fictional story of an aspiring young dancer to present a moving portrait of a rapidly changing capital and the new generation within. 

Biodiverse Vietnam is rapidly losing wildlife to habitat destruction and consumption, leading Vietnamese illustrators to fight back with their pens and brushes, reports Govi Snell. A range of young illustrators are using their artwork, often in partnership with local NGOs, to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and the cruelty of wildlife trafficking.

Eurasians represent a minute and often overlooked portion of Singapore’s population, yet they have had a major impact on the country’s culture, reports Amanda Oon. The Eurasian Association is on a mission not only to share these contributions with the rest of Singapore, but to gain official recognition for Eureasians as an ethnic group.

A former driver for Singapore’s largest bus operator has become a reluctant leader in a legal battle to improve workers’ rights, reports Weilee Yap. The driver is pursuing a lawsuit against SBS Transit to change unfair work practices, a dogged labor rights case in a country with no independent work unions. 

Ensuring pregnant women receive proper nutrition helps prevent health complications from arising, notably gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), write Stéphane Vidry and Boon Yee Yeong of the International Life Sciences Institute. More local research, data collection and universal screening methods can help identify nutritional risk factors and prevent GDM.

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