PHNOM PENH: It’s tough at the top. Cambodia’s prime minister, a wily political strongman who has been in power for three decades, is worried his growing pot belly is affecting his golf swing.
Hun Sen, 64, made the frank admission in response to an old video that had been posted to his Facebook page by a user claiming the leader had suffered a stroke two years ago and sought treatment in Singapore.
The stroke rumor is something Hun Sen, who has vowed to remain in office for at least another decade, has always denied.
“You don’t need to worry to such a level about the health of Prime Minister Hun Sen,” the premier said during a speech in southern Kandal province.
“Don’t say that the prime minister suffered a stroke. It’s better you say that the prime minister is worried about his weight gain and his belly getting bigger, which makes it difficult for him to swing while golfing,” he added.
Hun Sen is renowned for his off-the-cuff remarks during his speeches.
His unpredictable commentary has also extended to Facebook, a platform he has recently embraced with gusto, often posting lengthy tirades and surprisingly intimate photos.
In Monday’s speech he said he had put on three kilograms in recent days while relentlessly touring the country as part of a plan to visit all 25 provinces, often sleeping in his chauffeured car.
But he swiftly added he remained in fine fettle.
“I am still very strong. Sometimes, I feel I am just 25 years old,” he said.
Golf is a game few Cambodians can afford. The average per capita income according to the World Bank is $1,158.
Hun Sen, a former army commander who defected from the Khmer Rouge, has dominated Cambodian politics for the past 31 years.
His administration has long argued that it has brought much needed peace and stability to a nation ravaged by civil war.
But his reign is marred by accusations of corruption, electoral fraud and rampant rights abuses.
Many of Hun Sen’s closest allies — including his own family — have become hugely wealthy in the last three decades.
Last month the Britain-based watchdog Global Witness released a report accusing the premier and his relatives of carving a $200 million business empire.
The government dismissed the report, calling it an effort discredit the premier, but it has not directly addressed the specific allegations detailed by researchers.