After an impressive 38 years at the helm of Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced his retirement from politics. This historic moment not only marks the end of an era but also reflects the remarkable achievements of a leader who has dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and its people. Hun Sen’s legacy is one of peace, development, and stability, and his impact on Cambodia and the region cannot be overstated.
Hun Sen’s journey to leadership is a testament to determination and resilience. Rising from humble origins as a peasant boy, he experienced the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime before defecting to Vietnam and joining the resistance against the genocidal regime. Returning to Cambodia in 1979, he played a pivotal role in the Vietnamese-backed government, eventually becoming the foreign minister and then prime minister in 1985.
Throughout his tenure, Hun Sen faced numerous challenges, including civil war, international isolation, coup attempts, border disputes, and political deadlock. Yet, through pragmatism, resilience, and diplomacy, he managed to overcome these obstacles and steer Cambodia towards a path of peace, progress, and prosperity. One of his most significant accomplishments was his key role in the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991, which ended the conflict and paved the way for democracy and reconciliation.
Under Hun Sen’s leadership, Cambodia has achieved remarkable progress in poverty reduction. In just 7.5 years, from 2014 to 2021/22, the country experienced a significant decline in poverty, with the incidence falling from 36.7% to 16.6%. The number of poor people was halved, demonstrating the effectiveness of tailored interventions and context-specific multidimensional poverty indices. This achievement is a testament to the government’s commitment to addressing the unique needs of its population, even amid the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The safety and well-being of children in the digital age have been a priority for Cambodia. The launch of comprehensive online child protection guidelines is a crucial milestone in the ongoing battle against online harm faced by children. Cambodia’s proactive approach to ensuring the safety of its young citizens in the digital world sets an example for the rest of the world. Together, we can protect children from cyberbullying, violence, and the alarming threat of online sexual exploitation and abuse, creating a safer and more inclusive online environment for all children.
Hun Sen’s commitment to the welfare of Cambodians extends to the most vulnerable. The recent implementation of a new subsidy program for pregnant women is a commendable move. Regardless of the number of children they are expecting, expectant mothers will receive financial support from pregnancy to childbirth, with additional cash support based on the actual number of children until they reach the age of 2 years old. This initiative underscores the government’s dedication to ensuring the well-being of all Cambodians, irrespective of their employment status.
Furthermore, under the leadership of Hunsen, Phnom Penh, Cambodia has been ranked as the fifth most coveted city in the world for solo travel by Explore Worldwide, a UK-based adventure travel company. The ranking was based on Google search data from the past two years, which showed a 500% increase in searches compared to the previous year.
Cambodia’s growing commitment to global peacekeeping efforts is notable. The decision to send Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) and additional equipment to Mali demonstrates the nation’s dedication to maintaining peace and stability in conflict-ridden regions. The protection of Cambodian peacekeepers from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines highlights the government’s unwavering commitment to global peacekeeping efforts.
In addition to these achievements, Cambodia has made significant progress in the digital payment landscape. In 2022 alone, the country witnessed a staggering 34% increase in transactions, amounting to $272.8 billion.With a substantial increase in transactions, the country is experiencing rapid growth in digital payment services, exemplifying its embrace of technology and digital innovation.
Hun Sen displayed strong leadership and resilience in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the global crisis, he managed to successfully contain the virus without resorting to strict lockdowns or closing borders. Cambodia remained open for business and tourism, while simultaneously providing free testing, treatment, and vaccination for all citizens. Moreover, he implemented economic relief and stimulus measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on various sectors. This approach ensured the safety and well-being of Cambodians while safeguarding the country’s economy and livelihoods.
The 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Cambodia showcased the strength, unity, and sportsmanship of the ASEAN family. The event, presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen, demonstrated the power of determination, sacrifice, and willpower among athletes from eleven Southeast Asian countries. Cambodia’s successful hosting of the event has further enhanced its reputation as a welcoming and vibrant destination.
Furthermore, Cambodia’s commitment to clean energy and sustainable development is exemplary. The introduction of the Power Development Masterplan (PDP) and the National Energy Efficiency Policy (NEEP) reflects the government’s dedication to a greener, more sustainable future. By adopting best practices in energy efficiency and renewable energy, Cambodia aims to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, creating new jobs and promoting a better future for its citizens and the world.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s legacy is one of progress and transformation. He has diversified Cambodia’s economy, attracting foreign investment and trade, and integrating the country into regional and global frameworks. He has invested in human development, improving literacy, health care, and infrastructure for millions of Cambodians. His commitment to women’s empowerment, social security programs, and clearing landmines showcases his dedication to the well-being of his people.
As Cambodia bids farewell to its longest-serving leader, it looks towards a future shaped by the progress and achievements of the past. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s retirement marks the end of a remarkable era, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire and guide future generations. Cambodia’s journey under his leadership serves as a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and a vision for a better future.