A Tiger Rules the Mountain

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

Hun Sen’s legacy is to defy the West

The world’s longest serving prime minister steps aside for his eldest son

Hun Sen was replaced by Hun Manet, his eldest son, on 22nd August after a vote in the National Assembly. The transition had been carefully managed with the King, at Hun Sen’s request, having written a letter proclaiming Hun Manet as prime minister pending the vote in the Assembly.

The swiftness of transition has surprised, even shocked, Cambodians, understandable given most have only ever known Hun Sen as their prime minister.

Hun Sen is stepping aside more than stepping down though. He will remain President of the Cambodian People’s Party and intends to become President of the Senate, saying he will serve in that role for ten years. This would mean father and son lead both chambers of parliament.

The President of the Senate also acts as head of state, approving laws, when the King is out of the country. The King has previously found himself out of the country when controversial legistlation is being passed and may find that happens again.

‘Cambodia’s democratic deficit: Australia’s role and responsibility’

Gareth Evans was Australia’s Foreign Minister during 1988-96, and played a key role ending Cambodia’s civil war in 1991 and organising UN-held elections in 1993. He spoke at my book launch and we wrote an article together for the Lowy Institute (Australia’s premier foreign affairs think tank) which focusses on Australian foreign policy in Cambodia and the limitations of Australia’s new Interational Development Policy which does not even mention democracy. We look back over 30 years and argue Australia could and should be doing a lot more to support democracy in Cambodia.

Read the article here: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/cambodia-s-democracy-deficit-australia-s-role-responsibility

‘Hun Sen’s legacy is the defeat of Western foreign policy’

I also wrote an article for The Diplomat showing how Hun Sen has defied Western countries. Western foreign policy has been based on modernization theory which predicts that economic development will automatically lead to democracy. Cambodia’s GDP has grown by over 1000% in thirty years but is now ranked 121st in the democracy index. Cambodia also makes a mockery of the Western belief that with the fall of communism, the only remaining attractive model of government is liberal democracy. Cambodia is not looking West for inspiration but East, not just to China, but to Singapore, which appears far more stable, peaceful and prosperous than fumbling France or beleagured Britain.

Read the article here: https://thediplomat.com/2023/08/hun-sens-legacy-is-the-defeat-of-western-foreign-policy/

Hun Sen actually came to power before Gorbachev did in the Soviet Union and it is incredible to think how the world has changed in the time he has been leader.

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