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Hun Sen (Khmer: ហ៊ុន សែន; born 5 August 1952[a]) is a Cambodian politician who has served as the Prime Minister of Cambodia since 1985. He is currently the world's longest-serving prime minister, the longest-serving head of government of Cambodia, and one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. He is also the president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and a member of the National Assembly for Kandal. His full honorary title is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Khmer: សម្តេចអគ្គមហាសេនាបតី តេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន; meaning "Lord Prime Minister, Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen"). Born Hun Bunal, he changed his name to Hun Sen in 1972 two years after joining the Khmer Rouge. From 1979 to 1986 and again from 1987 to 1990, he served as Cambodia's foreign minister.
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo
Hun Sen in 2018
|30th Prime Minister of Cambodia|
|Assumed office |
14 January 1985
Acting: 26 December 1984 – 14 January 1985
Second Prime Minister:
24 September 1993 – 30 November 1998
with Norodom Ranariddh and Ung Huot
|Preceded by||Chan Sy|
|President of the Cambodian People's Party|
|Assumed office |
20 June 2015
|Preceded by||Chea Sim|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
|Preceded by||Kong Korm|
|Succeeded by||Hor Namhong|
7 January 1979 – December 1986
|Prime Minister||Pen Sovan|
|Preceded by||Ieng Sary|
|Succeeded by||Kong Korm|
|Member of the National Assembly|
|Assumed office |
14 June 1993
|Constituency||Kampong Cham (1993–1998)|
5 August 1952
Kampong Cham, Cambodia
|Political party||Cambodian People's Party|
Bun Rany (m. 1976)
|Children||5, including Manet, Manith and Many|
|Awards||Grand Order of National Merit|
|Branch/service|| Khmer Rouge |
Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Army
|Years of service||1970–1999|
|Commands||Democratic Kampuchea – Eastern Region|
|Battles/wars||Cambodian Civil War (WIA)|
Since 1997, Hun Sen has led the CPP to consecutive victories and is currently serving in his fifth prime ministerial term. In June 2015, following the death of Chea Sim, Hun Sen was elected president of the CPP. In 2018, he was elected to a sixth term in a largely unopposed poll, with the CPP winning every seat in the National Assembly.
Hun Sen was 32 years old when he became Prime Minister, making him at that time the world's youngest head of government. He has been described as a "wily operator who destroys his political opponents" by The Sydney Morning Herald and as a dictator who has assumed authoritarian power in Cambodia using violence, intimidation and corruption to maintain his power base. Under his government, thousands of opposition activists, politicians, environmentalists and human rights workers have been murdered, where a majority of the cases were never investigated due to the political ties with the incumbent administration. Hun Sen has accumulated highly centralized power within Cambodia, including a personal guard said to have capabilities rivalling those of the country's regular army, making coup attempts virtually impossible.
Hun Sen was born in Kampong Cham as Hun Buny, the third of six children in a decent family. His father, Hun Neang, was a resident monk in a local Wat in Kampong Cham province before defrocking himself to join the French resistance and marry Hun Sen's mother, Dee Yon, in the 1940s. Hun Neang's paternal grandparents were wealthy landowners of Teochew Chinese heritage. Hun Neang inherited some of his family assets, including several hectares of land, and led a relatively comfortable life until a kidnapping incident forced their family to sell off much of their assets. Hun Nal left his family at the age of 13 to attend a monastic school in Phnom Penh. When Lon Nol usurped power from Sihanouk in 1970 in a bloodless coup, he gave up his education to join the Khmer Rouge. Two years later, Hun Nal changed his name to Hun Sen.[why?]
Accession to Power and PremiershipEdit
Hun Sen came to power with the Khmer Rouge and served as a Battalion Commander in the Eastern Region of Democratic Kampuchea (the state name during the Khmer Rouge government). In 1977, during internal purges of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen and his battalion cadres fled to Vietnam.[better source needed] As Vietnam prepared to invade Cambodia, Hun Sen became one of the leaders of the Vietnamese-sponsored rebel army and government. Following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Vietnamese-installed People's Republic of Kampuchea/State of Cambodia (PRK/SOC) in 1979.
Hun Sen rose to the premiership in January 1985 when the one-party National Assembly appointed him to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984. As the de facto leader of Cambodia, in 1985, he was elected as Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister.
As Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister, Hun Sen played a pivotal role in the 1991 Paris Peace Talks, which brokered peace in Cambodia. During this period Prince Norodom Sihanouk referred to him as a "one-eyed lackey of the Vietnamese". He held the position of Prime Minister until the 1993 UN-sponsored elections, which resulted in a hung parliament. After contentious negotiations with the FUNCINPEC, Hun Sen was accepted as Second Prime Minister, serving alongside Norodom Ranariddh until a 1997 coup toppled the latter. Ung Huot was then selected to succeed Ranariddh. In the 1998 election, he led the CPP to victory but had to form a coalition government with FUNCINPEC.
In 1997, the coalition was shaken by tensions between Ranariddh and Hun Sen. FUNCINPEC entered into discussions with the remaining Khmer Rouge rebels (with whom it had been allied against Hun Sen's Vietnamese-backed government during the 1980s), with the aim of absorbing them into its ranks. Such a development would have altered the balance of military power between royalists and the CPP.
In response, Hun Sen launched the 1997 Cambodian Coup, replacing Ranariddh with Ung Hout as the First Prime Minister and maintaining his position as the Second Prime Minister, a situation which lasted until the CPP's victory in the 1998 election, after which he became the country's sole Prime Minister. During that year the media portrayed him as the Strong Man of Cambodia. He later said that this was premature, and that the July 1997 coup was merely the government taking action against the paramilitary anarchy that was sponsored and brought to Phnom Penh by Norodom Ranariddh. In an open letter, Amnesty International condemned the summary execution of FUNCINPEC ministers and the "systematic campaign of arrests and harassment" of political opponents.
The controversial and widely disputed elections of July 2003 resulted in a larger majority in the National Assembly for the CPP, with FUNCINPEC losing seats to the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party. However, the CPP's majority was short of the two thirds constitutionally required for the CPP to form a government alone. This deadlock was overcome when a new CPP-FUNCINPEC coalition was formed in mid-2004, with Norodom Ranariddh chosen to be head of the National Assembly and Hun Sen again becoming sole Prime Minister.
In August 2013, Hun Sen announced the he would continue to pursue his aim of forming a new government, even if the main opposition tried to block the process. The news came after both sides claimed victory in the July 2013 general elections. Also in August, in New York, a major, but largely unnoticed, demonstration held in front of the United Nations (UN) on 19 August by Cambodians and Buddhist monks was a crucial prelude to planned mass demonstrations in Phnom Penh later in September 2013 by opposition groups protesting the July 2013 elections and Hun Sen's response. Cambodians in the United States, Canada and elsewhere, with hundreds of Buddhist Monks, peacefully protested in front of the United Nations in New York City in opposition to Hun Sen's deployment of military and security forces in Phnom Phenh and his unwillingness to share political power with opposition groups and seriously address earlier voting fraud and election irregularities from the July 2013 election.
After the 2013 election results, disputed by Hun Sen's opposition, one person was killed and others injured during protests in Cambodia's capital, where a reported 20,000 protesters gathered, some clashing with riot police. Following two weeks of opposition protests, Hun Sen declared that he had been constitutionally elected and would not step down nor hold a new election.
On 7 September 2013, tens of thousands of Cambodians, along with Buddhist monks and opposition groups, including Sam Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party held mass demonstrations in Phnom Penh to protest the 28 July elections results which they claimed were flawed and marred by voting irregularities and potential fraud. The groups asked the United Nations to investigate and claimed that the elections results were not free and fair.
On 3 January 2014, military police open fired at protesters, killing 4 people and injuring more than 20. The United Nations and US State Department have condemned the violence. US Congressman Ed Royce responded to the report of violence in Cambodia by calling for Hun Sen to step down, saying that the Cambodian people deserve a better leader.
On 10 June 2014, Hun Sen made a public appearance and claimed he has no health problems. He warned that if he were to die prematurely, the country would spin out of control and the opposition could expect trouble from the armed forces, saying he is the only person who can control the army.
Following Hun Sen's orders, on 31 January 2017, the National Assembly voted unanimously to abolish the Minority Leader and Majority Leader positions to lessen the opposition party's influence. On 2 February 2017, Hun Sen barred the opposition from questioning some of his government ministers. Furthermore, Hun Sen vowed a constitutional amendment which could potentially see the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolved. This move led to the surprise resignation of opposition leader Sam Rainsy. The controversial law was passed on 20 February 2017, effectively granting the ruling party the right to dissolve political parties.
On 30 June 2018, weeks before the parliamentary elections, Hun Sen appointed his second eldest son, Hun Manet, into higher military positions in a bid to prepare his son for the premiership when he retires in politics or dies, effectively solidifying the Hun political dynasty in Cambodia. Hun Sen has also been conducting image campaigns for his son, which he says was born from a 'supernatural' being and therefore, divine or godly. Political experts have said that Hun Sen's campaigns may lead Cambodia to a dynasty similar to Kim Jong-un's family of North Korea.
Political violence in CambodiaEdit
Some political opponents of Hun Sen have in the past tried to accuse him of being a Vietnamese puppet. This is due to his position in the government created by Vietnam while Cambodia was under Vietnamese military occupation and the fact that he was a prominent figure in the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (now known as the Cambodian People's Party), which governed Cambodia as a one-party state under Vietnamese military occupation from 1979 until elections in 1993. Hun Sen and his supporters reject such charges, saying that he only represented the Cambodian people.
Hun Sen's government has been responsible for leasing 45% of the total landmass in Cambodia—primarily to foreign investors—in the years 2007-08, threatening more than 150,000 Cambodians with eviction. Parts of the concessions are protected wildlife areas or national parks, and the land sales have been perceived by observers as government corruption. Already thousands of citizens have fallen victims of forced evictions.
Hun Sen was implicated in corruption related to Cambodia's oil wealth and mineral resources in the Global Witness 2009 report on Cambodia. He and his close associates were accused of carrying out secret negotiations with interested private parties, taking money from those[further explanation needed] who would be granted rights to exploit the country's resources in return. The credibility of this accusation has been challenged by government officials and especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself.
Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has placed bans on public gatherings, driven opposition supporters from the site of former protest meetings 'Freedom Park', and deployed riot police to beat protesters and detain union leaders.
Control of mediaEdit
Hun Sen and his political party, CPP, have held near total dominance over the mainstream media for the majority of their rule. Bayon Television is owned and operated by Hun Mana Hun Sen's eldest daughter. Apsara TV is joint-owned by Say Sam Al, CPP Minister of Environment and son of Say Chhum, CPP secretary and the son of CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. CTN, CNC and MyTV are all owned by Khmer-Chinese tycoon, Neak Okhna Kith Meng, one of the State's "Okhna". Okhna is a title granted by the Prime Minister or the Royal Family to high-profile businessmen, and signifies a very close friendship. Okhna are regularly summoned by the Prime Minister to provide funding for various projects.
CPP officials claim that there is no connection between the TV stations and the state, despite the obvious prevalence of nepotism. However, CPP lawmaker and official spokesman Cheam Yeap once stated "We pay for that television [coverage] by buying broadcasting hours to show our achievements," indicating that those TV stations are pro-CPP because they have been paid for by the state for what is effectively advertising.
A demand for television and radio licences was one of 10 opposition requests adopted by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) at its "People’s Congress" in October 2013.
Radio stations were banned from broadcasting Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in August 2017. The country's most prominent independent newspaper Cambodia Daily was closed on September 4, 2017, a day after the main opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested for treason, one of many activists, politicians and critics at present behind bars.
Hun Sen is married to Bun Rany. They have 6 children: Kamsot (deceased), Manet, Mana, Manith, Mani and Mali. Hun Manet is a 1999 West Point Academy graduate and obtained his PhD in Economics at the University of Bristol. In 2010, Manet was promoted Major General in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and became the Deputy Commander of the Prime Minister's Body Guard headquarters. All three of Hun Sen's sons play big roles in his regime. His older brother, Hun Neng, is a former governor of Kampong Cham and currently a member of parliament.
Although Hun Sen's official birthday is 4 April 1951, his true birth date is 5 August 1952. Hun Sen is fluent in Vietnamese, in addition to his native Khmer. Hun Sen also speaks some English after beginning to learn the language in the 1990s, but usually converses in Khmer through interpreters when giving formal interviews to the English-speaking press.
Hun Sen is blind in one eye because of an injury dating to his days as a Khmer Rouge soldier.
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Born on August 5, 1952 (officially on April 4th, 1951) in Peam Koh Sna Commune, Stoeung Trang District of Kampong Cham Province, upon completion of his local primary schooling, in 1965 Hun Sen came to Phnom Penh to continue his secondary education in the Lycée Indra Devi.
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- Note: See Botum Sakor National Park for example.
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- Premier fed up with insensitive remarks about eye, by Vong Sokheng, in the Phnom Penh Post; published December 23, 2015; retrieved September 30, 2017
- Though he was born on 5 August 1952, his birthdate in official documents is 4 April 1951.
- Alain Forest (2008), Cambodge contemporain, Indes Savantes, ISBN 2846541930 (in French)
- Harish C. Mehta and Julie B. Mehta. 1999. Hun Sen: Strongman of Cambodia. Singapore: Graham Brash Pte Ltd. ISBN 981-218-074-5
- Elizabeth Becker. 1986, 1998. When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1-891620-00-2
- Biography of Hun Sen Cambodia New Vision ~ newsletter of cabinet of Cambodia's Prime Ministerial office
Media related to Hun Sen at Wikimedia Commons
| Prime Minister of Cambodia
|New office|| Second Prime Minister of Cambodia
Served alongside: Norodom Ranariddh, Ung Huot
| Prime Minister of Cambodia
| Minister of Foreign Affairs
| Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Party political offices|
| President of the Cambodian People's Party
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Cambodian People's Party
| Chairperson of ASEAN
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
| Chairperson of ASEAN