OPINION: Samdech HUN Sen: an impressive legacy!

Cambodia has just changed Prime Minister. For the first time since 1985. Systematically criticized by the Western press, never disputed when it came to his colleagues Mahatir from Malaysia or Lee Kwan You from Singapore, this exceptional longevity is …

Cambodia has just changed Prime Minister. For the first time since 1985. Systematically criticized by the Western press, never disputed when it came to his colleagues Mahatir from Malaysia or Lee Kwan You from Singapore, this exceptional longevity is explained by the exceptional situation found by Hun Sen when he takes over the government of the country.

Because the man who took on this major responsibility was faced with a devastated country whose equipment was destroyed by the 1970-1975 war and the American bombardments (2,756,941 tons of bombs from 1965 to 1973, not counting the bombardments of 1973-1974). It was a country from which between a quarter and a third of the population has disappeared, mainly the most educated and the most cultured. It was a country whose mass crimes and genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot and his gang were denied by the UN and its human rights commission. Crimes which, however, according to a report by the Tunisian diplomat Boudhiba, were "unprecedented in our century except for the horrors of Nazism". It was a country whose survivors were exhausted, sick, traumatized and whose children have been deprived of a good health and a real schooling.

In the contemporary history, no regime, not even that of Hitler, other than that of Pol Pot, has undertaken to dislocate its own society and the social fabric, to destroy its institutions, to dismantle families, to erect the entire national territory into a huge, forced labor and extermination camp.

It is on such a country that a Sino-Western coalition imposed an embargo which denied the most fundamental human rights yet celebrated to saturation by Westerners: the right to food, the right to health, the right to education, the right to culture, the right to development and even the right to peace. Since, outside the UN, Chinese and Westerners were working to reconstitute a military force made up mainly with Pol Pot’s troops (trained by the British) which will inflict on this people of survivors 12 years of war. This embargo, thirty years after it was lifted, still affects today the health of those who suffered from it and the country's human resources.

All this because Cambodia was a country for which the coalition that dominated the UN had raise a pretext: the refusal to recognize a regime resulting from foreign intervention. However, the UN, before 1979, on eleven occasions, recognized regimes resulting from foreign military intervention, the most famous of which are Yemen (1961), Bangladesh (1971) and Uganda (1978). Not to mention the interventions of the American services in Latin America and the French army in Africa, before and after 1979.

It will therefore be necessary for the first Hun Sen government to continue the efforts, with the help of a Vietnamese contingent, to prevent the return of Pol Pot to power. At the cost of human lives, nameless suffering and deprivation of all kinds. Which will make it clear that there was no military solution. And this will justify the peace plan launched by Hun Sen in 1987 at the origin of the political unblocking and the start of negotiations. But those who guarantee the Cambodian people the non-return of the Khmer Rouge to power will come up against the intransigence of the Chinese and Westerners for four years who intend to involve Pol Pot in any peace solution. The result will be so-called Paris Peace Agreements that have not brought peace, since the trust of those who supported the Khmer Rouge will be betrayed by the latter who will refuse to implement the Agreements they have signed. What the more lucid had foreseen. When the UN left Cambodia in 1993, there were institutions born from elections and the work of the Constituent Assembly. These institutions enable Cambodia to reintegrate into the international community. But there was no peace. The fighting and the suffering that accompanies it lasted another five years.

The peace that the Vietnamese, the UN and HM Norodom Sihanouk have been unable to achieve, it is Samdech Hun Sen's win-win policy that will make it happen. An achievement that should have earned him the Nobel Peace Prize if this kind of distinction was not reserved for the darlings of the West.

Peace achieved, the reconstruction of the country and its development can begin. The pragmatism of the one that the Western media take pleasure in recalling an unproven communist past will justify reforms of an unusual scale to make Cambodia one of the most attractive countries on the planet for foreign investors. A proactive management of foreign aid will facilitate the reconstruction of a large number of infrastructures and the creation of a huge number of new equipment.

At the same time, under the impetus of Samdech Hun Sen, the small state apparatus created after the liberation in 1979 was to be modernized and equipped. This great movement of reforms will be accompanied, of course, by some failures (e.g., railway equipment, too late and too modest, a late priority for education that has since been largely compensated), but above all by a lot of success: the airports, the port of Sihanoukville and its industrial zone, new roads, bridges over the Mekong which was only crossed by ferry, the birth of a expressway network… Samdech Hun Sen and his teams will seize all opportunities, without worrying about ideological prejudices. And when China, which from 2008 on its own provided as much aid as all the other countries put together (would it be to make people forget its support for Pol Pot from 1975 to 1991?), proposed its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI ), Samdech Hun Sen understood that there was a great opportunity here to make a major leap forward in the equipment of his country. The same will apply once the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has been launched, of which Cambodia was a negotiator and a signatory and from which it is now drawing great benefits for one of the major objectives of this century: to get out of underdevelopment and to industrialize the country. The proliferation of trade agreements with South Korea, Japan and ASEAN countries will also contribute to the country's development. This policy resulted in a growth rate of 7% for twenty years, a drastic reduction in poverty and the growing emergence of a middle class. This momentum will be interrupted by the Covid 19 crisis, for which the Hun Sen government will provide the world with a model of exemplary management.

As it was not possible to rebuild and develop Cambodia without real peace, it is not possible to build a modern state without real political stability. This objective will not cease to be hampered by an opposition which has gradually built its popularity on all the themes which divide a nation which still has to find a national consensus on several issues. To exacerbate hostile feelings about Vietnam, born from ignorance of historical facts, the opposition will neglect nothing that could increase its popularity: calls for racial hatred, exacerbated nationalism, publication of false documents, defamation and slander. The opposition does not express itself on alternative development projects, it lies, it insults, it stirs up divisions, it violates the laws. All Samdech Hun Sen's efforts to establish a culture of dialogue between the majority and the opposition will come up against the inability of the opposition to fit into the democratic model of political debate. Unfortunately, this opposition managed to mislead Western governments who were only asking to support the possible replacement of a Cambodian leader they never liked. Cambodia is therefore confronted with Europeans and Americans who systematically take up the defense of a nationalist and racist opposition, while being inexhaustible on human rights and democracy - after having supported Pol Pot for twelve years, never forget.

But nothing will stop a leader who wants at all costs to bring his country out of underdevelopment and who needs a stable political life, even at the cost of a democracy still under construction and Western sanctions. This political will to ensure the essential stability will benefit from the constant support of HM King Norodom Sihamoni.

The statesman who steps down from the leadership of government offers his successor a legacy of historic significance. If HM Norodom Sihanouk was, after 90 years of colonization, the architect of Cambodia's rediscovered independence in peace and territorial integrity, it is undeniable that Samdech Hun Sen is the architect of the rebirth and revival of Cambodia in rediscovered peace, political stability and extraordinary economic and social development.

Source: Agence Kampuchea Presse