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PM Hun Sen marks 30 years at top

By Associated Press in Neak Loeung, Cambodia | China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-15 07:30

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen marked 30 years in power on Wednesday, one of only a handful of political leaders worldwide who have managed to stay in power that long.

Since first taking up the job of prime minister at age 33, he has consolidated his power. He can also take some credit for bringing modest economic growth and stability to a country devastated by upheaval in the 1970s.

"Hun Sen is one of the cleverest politicians Asia has ever seen," said Sebastian Strangio, author of a biography of the Cambodian leader.

In a speech marking the completion of the country's 2,200-meter bridge across the Mekong River on Wednesday, Hun Sen, 62, defended his record, saying that only he was daring enough to bring peace to Cambodia.

"If Hun Sen hadn't been willing to enter the tigers' den, how could we have caught the tigers?" he said, referring to himself. He acknowledged some shortcomings, but pleaded for observers to see the good as well as the bad in his leadership.

Born to a farmer's family in east-central Cambodia, Hun Sen initially joined the Khmer Rouge to oppose what was then a pro-US government. He went to Vietnam in 1977 and accompanied the Vietnamese intervention in 1979.

The timely change of sides led to his being appointed foreign minister, then prime minister in 1985. He has stayed in the top post despite being forced to temporarily accept the title of "co-prime minister" after his party came in second in a 1993 UN-supervised election.

Biographer Strangio noted: "His long career has been marked by his incredible ideological flexibility - an uncanny ability to twist and bend with the political wind."

He said that Hun Sen was able to present his rule as the only guarantee against a return to chaos.

In 2013 elections, it seemed Hun Sen's hold on power had been shaken when the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 seats in the National Assembly and leaving Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party with 68. He stood fast against a potentially destabilizing boycott of the parliament by the opposition, conceding very little while eventually winning the opposition's agreement to return.


PM Hun Sen marks 30 years at top

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) greets people during a ceremony for casting concrete to complete Neak Loeung bridge in Kandal province on Wednesday. Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP


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