Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen: 33 Years in the Driver’s Seat. And the Opposition: Morphs from Party to Movement.

Prime Minister Hun Sen in an unusual driver’s seat

Partyforumseasia:         Thirty-three years in power! On January 14, 1985, at the age of 33, Hun Sen was the winner when then Prime Minister Pen Sovann was no longer backed by Hanoi, and successor Chan Si died in office. Few kings and emperors have reigned as long as Prime Minister Hun Sen though the feudal systems normally guaranteed their rule for lifetime. The political biography of Hun Sen shows a remarkable survival instinct and outstanding leadership skills which have made him one of the world’s longest serving prime ministers. His official title “Samdech” can be translated as “Lord”. It is bestowed by the King and, except to Hun Sen and his wife, awarded only to five other top politicians, the latest one in July 2017 to  loyal Defense Minister Tea Banh.

Celebrating the 33-year anniversary among some 5000 trishaw or tuk-tuk drivers, Mr. Hun Sen praised his long rule as based on elections and not on violence. The real dictators, he said, were the Khmer Rouge and US-backed Lon Nol. He also added that he was not keen on being the prime minister, but that he cannot retire because the country needs him.
For the upcoming elections in July this year, the Prime Minister seems to be completely assured of another victory. His potential nemesis, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy,


Kem Sokha

lives in self-exile in France to avoid a string of controversial convictions. His successor Kem Sokha, is in prison for plotting to topple the government with the help of the United States, and accused of “treason”. Most of the other leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) which has been dissolved by the Constitutional Court in November, are either in exile or barred from politics anyway. But in view of a groundswell against the ruling party, especially among the younger Cambodians, the


Sam Rainsy

CNRP refuses to give up. On 12 January, Sam Rainsy and more leaders have launched a new organization under the name of Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), which they claim “nobody can harm or dissolve”. (LINK)
They invite Cobodians “from all walks of life, regardless of their political affiliation, to join the CNRM in order to protect the will of the Cambodian people through free, fair and inclusive elections.”
As long as Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha, and the extended leadership circle were active in the country, the tide seemed to swell in their direction and against Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). With the neutralization of the opposition, the task is much more difficult. Hun Sen brushes off all international criticism of destroying Cambodia’s democratic experiment. Western political and economic support is obviously no longer appreciated or necessary with China massively stepping in.
Expect Mr. Hun Sen to rule for the next ten years as he has said recently.

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