A Tiger Rules the Mountain

The world's longest serving Prime Minister and Cambodia's pursuit of democracy

30 Years of Cambodia in 30 Minutes

When I was finishing school in Scotland, Luke Hunt was reporting on the civil war in Afghanistan. I was answering questions in a physics test while he was being tried for espionage in a Taliban court. He managed to survive, just as he had while reporting the Iraq war in 1990, and again in Afghanistan when it was invaded in 2001.

Hunt has won international awards for his reporting and books, which also include extensive reporting on Cambodia where he has won exclusive interviews with the country’s most powerful, and notorious in the share of the former Khmer Rouge leader, Khieu Samphan. So, when I was introduced to him by a mutual acquaintance in a Phnom Penh bar last year, I half-hoped my friend wouldn’t mention that I was writing a book about Cambodia. I feared Hunt would wonder who the hell I thought I was to be doing such a thing.

It wasn’t long of course before my friend proudly told Hunt that I was writing a book and he turned his head to look at me. The short, snappy description that I had perfected for friends and publishers felt inept and vacuous for him, but thankfully he enquired more and more and before long I was receiving ideas, new stories and even practical advice on wordcount and cover design.

Podcast Interview

Our conversation restarted a few days ago, unfortunately not in a Phnom Penh bar, but in an episode of Hunt’s podcast for The Diplomat.

We skip through 30 years of Cambodian politics in 30 minutes, beginning with the 3 votes in the 1993 election that set the course for where it is today. We debate whether the controversial 2013 election result, when Hun Sen nearly lost control, could be trusted or not and if Hun Sen was right to crack down on protestors. Plus, Hunt reveals the details of Hun Sen’s ultimate display of power in 2004.

If you’ve read A Tiger, you will get to hear more about Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy, and that election of 2013 where my book starts. Plus, more of the intrigue from the 1990s and early 2000s.

Aboriginal rights in Australia

There’s also a fascinating episode about the Australian referendum on the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. In this, Hunt interviews Jill Gallagher, an Aboriginal woman who was heavily involved in developing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which led to the referendum.

In it, Gallagher says that Australians today shouldn’t feel guilty for what has happened in the past (killings, slavery and kidnapping) but that all have a responsibility for doing the right thing now.

Australia chose not to support The Voice but Gallagher’s words are still worth listening to.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *