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Hun Sen marks 33 years as prime minister

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:
The Prime Minister took office 33 years ago. KT/Mai Vireak

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday marked 33 years in power, vowing to stay on for at least another decade while pushing for greater economic revival.

Mr Hun Sen first took office on January 14, 1985, becoming the world’s youngest prime minister at 32 years of age. He was unanimously elected by the National Assembly after having served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

At a speech given to more than 4,000 taxi drivers yesterday at Koh Pich, Mr Hun Sen said: “At that time, I remember the voting was conducted by way of a secret ballot at the National Assembly, but there was not even a single opposing vote against me.”

He said he struggled to liberate and reform the country from the ashes of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which left about 1.7 million people dead from starvation, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979.

Cambodia’s civil conflict was caused by the 1970 overthrow of Prince Sihanouk by General Lon Nol, which allowed Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge to take control of the country.

Although Pol Pot’s regime was toppled in January 1979, the civil conflict continued for nearly two decades, with remnants of the Khmer Rouge attacking the Vietnamese-backed government.

The Khmer Rouge also resisted the elections held in 1993 as part of the UN’s mandate to end the conflict in Cambodia.

The government began introducing its win-win policy in early 1996, first in Oral district in western Kampong Speu province. By 1998, the remaining Khmer Rouge factions had been dissolved and their members integrated into the military.

Mr Hun Sen denied being a dictator, saying the real dictator was Pol Pot whose regime lasted less than four years while the Lon Nol regime, with support from the US government, only lasted five years.

“I’ve lived through difficult times, starting with putting my life at risk and returning to take up the job as prime minister for 33 years,” he said.

Mr Hun Sen also vowed to stay in power for at least another 10 years if his ruling CPP won July’s national election.

“I hope the ruling Cambodian People’s Party will be victorious in the upcoming general election, giving me the opportunity to continue to lead the country in order to develop and push for greater socio-economic revival.”

Sum Chhumbun, a social researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Mr Hun Sen’s leadership had brought national unification, stability and prosperity to the country.

“If Prime Minister Hun Sen had not come up with his effort, maybe we would still be fighting each other,” he said.

Mr Chhumbun added the Prime Minister was rigorous and flexible under all circumstances.

“He is a great man that ended the civil conflict in Cambodia in 1998, when the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge were finally integrated into the military,” he said.

Since the end of French colonial rule in 1953, Cambodia has had dozens of prime ministers including Mr Hun Sen, who is the longest serving among them.

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