Hun Sen

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Sâmdech (i.e. "His Excellency") Hun Sen (born April 4 1951) is the Prime Minister of Cambodia. He is a key leader of the Cambodian People's Party, which, has governed Cambodia in a coalition with the Funcinpec party since the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1993. The coalition was shook by tensions between Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, who in 1997 launched a bloody coup, removing Ranariddh and becoming the country's sole prime minister. Several royalist supporters were tortured to death by CPP members, though Hun Sen denied any involvement. [1] He also denied that his action was a coup, alleging that Funcinpec was collaborating with Khmer Rouge rebels. [2]

The elections of July 2003 resulted in a larger majority in the National Assembly for the CPP, with the FUNCINPEC losing seats to CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party. However, CPP's majority was short of the constitutionally-required 2/3 for the CPP to organize the government on its own. This deadlock was overcome through some creative interpretation of the constitution and a new CPP-FUNCINPEC coalition was formed in mid 2004.

Hun Sen was a low-level officer in the Khmer Rouge. After witnessing the excesses of the Khmer Rouge in 1976, he defected to Vietnam in 1977 and quickly became an important leader in the Vietnamese-backed resistance to the Khmer Rouge. When the Rouge regime was overthrown, Hun Sen was appointed foreign minister of the Vietnamese-installed People's Republic of Kampuchea from 1979 until 1990, with a brief interruption from 1986 until 1987. As foreign minister Hun Sen was a key figure in the Paris Peace Talks which brokered peace in Indochina. He became prime minister in 1985, shortly after the death of Chan Sy. From 1993 until 1998 he was co-prime-minister with Prince Norodom Ranariddh. He has been reputed for using intimidation tactics in politics to remain in power.

Some political opponents of Hun Sen accuse him of being a puppet of Hanoi due to his position in the former PRK as 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 from 1979 until the restoration of democracy in 1993. Hun Sen tends to denounce such charges, claiming that he represents of the Cambodian people and no one else.

The title "Sâmdech" was attached to his name in 1993 by King Norodom Sihanouk. It is only a honorary title and does not give him further powers.

Further reading

  • Elizabeth Becker. 1986, 1998. When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620002
  • Harish C. Mehta and Julie B. Mehta. 1999. Hun Sen: Strongman of Cambodia. Singapore: Graham Brash Pte Ltd. ISBN 9812180745
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