While the government celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the end of the Cambodian Civil War yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen reaffirmed his intention to retire from his premiership at the age 78.
Minister of Defence General Tea Banh yesterday represented Mr Hun Sen during the celebration of the anniversary at the Win-Win Monument in front of the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district.
While addressing the nation through the state-run TVK live broadcast from his residence in Kandal province yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said he would retire in the next 10 years. He is 68-years-old now.
“I think I will be in power until the age of 78, or for the next 10 years,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If anyone wants to change Hun Sen, please win the election first.”
Mr Hun Sen took office as Prime Minister on January 14, 1985, after he was unanimously elected by the National Assembly to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984.
“There are still a few days left to mark the 36th anniversary of my tenure as Prime Minister. In the United States and France, the term of office of the president is limited to two terms […] In Cambodia, there is no limit, and it must be continued,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen became the world’s youngest Prime Minister at the time, at age 32. He also held the position of Foreign Minister until 1991. Today, he is the world’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the longest-serving leaders in the world.
In mid-December, he made a rare revelation that one of the preferred successors could be Deputy Prime Minister Aun Pornmoniroth, who is also Minister of Economy and Finance.
He urged critics to stop fuelling speculation of his son, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and Royal Cambodian Army Commander Lieutenant General Hun Manet, 43, as his successor.
Yesterday, Mr Hun Sen also highlighted his achievement after his Win-Win Policy successfully integrated the last Khmer Rouge stronghold in 1998.
The CPP’s government at the end of 2018 also officially inaugurated the $12 million Win-Win Monument as it is a symbol of peace and a tourist site. The 54-metre tall monument, which began construction in 2016, serves as a reminder of Mr Hun Sen’s achievements in securing peace for Cambodia decades ago.
He said he acknowledged that the Comprehensive Cambodian Peace Agreement, otherwise known as the Paris Peace Agreements in 1991, was an achievement for Cambodians and foreigners in their efforts for peace.
The Paris Peace Agreements ended decades of armed conflict in Cambodia on October 23, 1991, when the country’s warring factions signed the treaty along with 18 signatory foreign countries under the auspices of the United Nations.
He noted that until the peacekeeping mission of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac) withdrew troops from Cambodia in 1993, they spent more than $2 billion, however the Khmer Rouge still continued to fight.
“Cambodia was left to become a country with two territories, two governments and two armed forces fighting from 1993 to 1998,” he said. “We couldn’t allow Cambodians to continue fighting and stabbing each other. The only way I could do that was to trade my life for peace.”
He said that he held negotiations with the top Khmer Rouge leaders, including Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea (who died in 2019), to find the real peace for Cambodia through the Win-Win Policy.
“If I did not go into the Khmer Rouge-occupied territory, who would believe us?” he said. “Indeed, the civil war that erupted since the 1970s ended through the Win-Win Policy.”
“It was our duty to end the civil war waged by the previous generation,” Mr Hun Sen added.
In his speech yesterday, Gen Banh echoed Mr Hun Sen’s remarks, saying the full peace and national reconciliation in the Kingdom came from the “Win-Win Policy”. He called on people to join with the government to maintain peace.
“We celebrate the great values of the ‘Win-Win Policy’ that has brought peace, and territorial unity,” he said.
The government announced in February that it will build five more Win-Win monuments in the Kingdom in addition to the one in Phnom Penh to honour the sacrifices made by Mr Hun Sen and others to end the decades-long civil war with the Khmer Rouge movement.
According to General Nem Sowath, director-general of the Defence Ministry’s General Department of Policy and Foreign Affairs, they will be built in former Khmer Rouge strongholds in Oddar Meanchey as well as in Kampong Speu, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey and Kampot provinces.
Gen Sowath said the tributes will serve as a reminder to the people of the Win-Win Policy which brokered an end to the bitter conflict and ushered in peace to the Kingdom.