For Competitors, Am Just a Dictator
I rejoice to receive the Award of Peace and Development presented by the Union Media of ASEAN (UMA). I deeply thank UMA for choosing me for this award. I have listened closely to the speeches of HE Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information, and Mr. Prasit Sangrungrueng, UMA Secretary General, relating to my past. I should reaffirm why I should receive this award. In fact, I would not accept just any proposed awards. The fact that I accepted this award is because I wish that neighboring media association became an institution that strengthens friendly and cooperation relation in the region. I wish to take this opportune moment to express my appreciation for the initiatives taken by media associations in countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, which also extends to the ASEAN framework.
HE Khieu Kanharith already mentioned in his report that the union would help journalists not to inflame any further differences between governments. I see that this important motto, though the union is a new institution, should carry on and the alliance should meet regularly. I find your activities a satisfaction and I am happy with the Phnom Penh meeting. I have a prepared speech here but I think I am going to talk with some selected points from it. You all in UMA consider me a democratic person, a promoter of media development in Cambodia. However, for those who compete against me, in their mind “I am just another dictator.”
You may think clearly that before Cambodia had only one or two black and white papers – one run by Khieu Kanharith, Kampuchea, and another run by Som Kimsuor, Procheachun. We had only one AM radio and one black and white TV channel. Now, Cambodia has up to 20 TV Channels, 800 newspapers and magazines, and online. The fact Cambodia has turned out like this now would it prove to you that if I were a dictator.
Thank UMA for Knowledge of Hardships under Pol Pot
… Moment ago, Mr. Prasit talked about absence of freedom in the time of Pol Pot. It was true. Human would have rights equal that of animal. Animal in those days could still protect their babies. For me, what happened to my first child was a tragedy that I can never forget in my whole life. On 10 November 1976, when my first child was born, a nurse slipped him of her hands and broke his spine. He died. I asked permission from accompanying commander to bury my child properly and take care of my wife. He said to me “even if you stay, your child would not have life again and your wife would just still be like that. Let other burry your child and you have to join me for work.”
… About one month before my wife gave birth, I collected herbs for medicine and was bitten by a mom dog that protected her babies. I came to a comparison that even the mother dog could had every right to do so, while I wouldn’t have that right like hers. It was a motivating point for my resistance. At the age of 25 years old, I became a leader and I can say with pride that I was a young man that changed Cambodia through toppling the Khmer Rouge. It was lucky that I came to meet and cooperate with movements of Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim. We became a stranded force to overthrow the Pol Pot regime. While obtaining victory, it was so unfortunate that there was nothing left from the regime of Pol Pot. While feeling like our hands chopped off, the UN and other countries imposed sanctions on Cambodia.
Let me tell you that when I first came to Phnom Penh 37 years ago, there were about 70 people. Most of them were women, children, and elderly. At around March or April, people in Phnom Penh then came to about 10,000. At present, we have too much and traffic jam is a reality. One may not think that Cambodia today has not gotten its past. Some may not have known that when they see normal activities of trade and tourism like in other countries. At 27 years old, I was Foreign Minister and reunited with my family and my second son. It was a difficult and sad feeling to have my only son calling me “uncle.” He would not allow me to get any closer to my wife. They were unforgettable. I thank UMA for its knowledge and truth recognition about our hardships in the time of Pol Pot. We did so much and tried hard to rebuild the country without assistance except punishment. I became Prime Minister in 1985 and it is now over 31 years that I have been in this post.
In Search for Reconciliation and Peace
… The question why Cambodians fought one another has become a topic of my research not when I was Prime Minister in 1985 but since when I was Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. I had come to understand that armed conflicts arose because of the one-party rule and allowed no rights to set up associations and/or free press. Only one option left was to carry out armed resistance. Everyone should remember this point. Leave room and rights for others to avoid armed conflict. I nurtured intention to resolve the problem and carried it out at the time when internal and external environment was not favorable to Hun Sen.
I would tell you that my life was dear to have survived to today. My life was a target of assassination many times, including the one on 24 September 1998, when four rockets fired on me. It was my lucky day that only one of the four exploded and missed my car. When I became Prime Minister, I started reforms on two fronts – firstly, political and secondly economical. Economically, we had to get the country ready to move from centrally planned to market oriented and free market economy. Politically, we had to set out policy in search for political settlement of conflict in Cambodia. That had led us to the Hun Sen-Sihanouk negotiation at Fere-en-Tardenois on 2 December 1987. It was in fact the opening of a way in for concerned parties to the negotiation process and intervention from the United Nations.
One may ask a question, what if Hun Sen did not sign the agreement, who would then? I would affirm that there was a consensus within the Party then. You already met with Samdech Heng Samrin and unfortunately, Samdech Chea Sim already passed away. It was with internally political consensus that I could carry out negotiation, though as Prime Minister I had to make final decisions on every issues. One of the people used to be a member of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia here is HE Ieng Moly, who in fact was a member from the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) then led by Son San. He now is a member of the Cambodian People’s Party. We are not carrying politics of minuses but pluses.
Win-win Policy Reunites Cambodia in Its Past 500-Years History
I would tell you that the UN presence in Cambodia had spent up to 2 billion USD. When they left, Cambodia was still a divided nation – two rules. Along the Cambodian-Thai border, Khmer Rouge remnants were there, and inside the country, there were places that they occupied too. Sometimes, when the government forces moved out of one area, they moved in. In the end, we came up with a win-win policy that eventually ended the Khmer Rouge organization politically and militarily. Cambodia then became a reunited country for the first time in its past 500-years history, (taking into consideration its division) since 1473, after the time of King Punhea Yat, Noray Raja and Preah Srey Raja.
In the last 500 years, Cambodia suffered times of many divisions and rules. Before 1970, Cambodia was divided into four factions – the Phnom Penh government, the Khmer Rouge’s territory, the White Khmer territory, and the Blue Khmer territory. Between 1970 and 1975, Cambodia was divided into two parts – one controlled by Lon Nol, who, with the US support, launched the coup against Preah Norodom Sihanouk, and another was a liberation area led by Preah Norodom Sihanouk. On 17 April 1975, the regime of Lon Nol fell. People should have peace after a five years war, but the brutal regime replaced the Lon Nol one of bombardments.
There were no options left. We could not fight with pen as we do today. We could not fight in the National Assembly. The remaining option was to carry out armed and political resistance to overthrow the regime of Pol Pot. We came, however, to a question whether we continued to fight just like that? The answer was no. There is no country in the world that ends war completely by crushing the other side. Except perhaps Sri Lanka that defeated the Tamil, but it will end there, hopefully. We had to put an end to the war that UNTAC could not with its two billion USD. The win-win policy did end it and reunite the country for the first time.
Historians, and other learned persons, recognize and accept reasons and actual development of the country. However, those in opposition consider me a warmonger and a dictator that restrict everyone of press freedom. Only time will give an unbiased judgment. It would not be certain yet that those who promised them otherwise would do it better. You may have seen some of the Chinese movies. There was a dialogue and I quote “traveling far will tell how good or bad the horse is.” … 37 years of the Heng Samrin-Hun Sen administration, when Samdech Heng Samrin was head of state and I was Prime Minister, why should we called for negotiation, if we were dictators?
Higher Middle Income Country by 2030 and Developed Country by 2050
We did everything we possibly could for the country since when Cambodia had only 5 million people. We now have 15 million people. The country had gone from the time that there was no money. Now we crossed from low-income country to lower-middle income country. We are now taking extra measure to avoid being trapped as in other middle-income nations. We have put out objectives to reach a target that our people will achieve higher-middle income in 2030 and become a developed nation by 2050. We may not live until then but it is an indicative map in the field of agriculture, industry and other sectors. People of later generation may or may not change them. It is up to them. … Today, you all present me with the Peace and Development Award in the Peace Palace, where President Barack Obama also dined and other summits conducted here […]
A Get-Together between Prime Minister and Media
One day, as time would allow, I would offer a lecture in win-win policy as I did twice for officials and students at universities. HE Kheiu Kanharith requested for a meeting between Prime Minister and the media on an annual basis to create a close bond between the media people and leaders of the Royal Government. I accept it with pleasure. I would urge that we should follow from meeting to a dining and dancing session. I am sure the Minister of Information would know very well to organize the entertainment. In the afternoon of April 4, I will meet with sportsmen and sportswomen for a meal. I would seek HE Khieu Kanharith to help me with number of journalists and figure out which restaurant to go. Dining, while discussing, is a good way to have a taste. I hope there would not be anyone accusing me of buying the media’s morale.
In Cambodia, if anyone were to meet most media people, it must be Hun Sen. If he went quiet, they would lose their jobs. When Hun Sen speaks, they would write for days. There are also groups of “speaking about” and of “analyzing.” The speaking group would continue to talk about it for days and acted as if they all know every issue. Please allow me to give you a tip, if I may, for both local and foreign media, to reason your media with readers or users, you must write the truth. To write something untrue, readers or users would soon find out and their trust would vanish.
It was because of this note that I said we have two Cambodias – a true Cambodia and a descriptive Cambodia by the media. I would not say every media does that. On some, while being in the most favorable situation, they presented Cambodia as hell. In fact, we now have a better situation here. In 2015, we have received some 4.7 million tourists and this year we hope to have a new figure, if not five, closer to five, million tourists too. The reason is easy to understand. Many regions suffered terrorist attacks. Tourists alter their destinations to South East Asia, a safe place and not too bad weather.
Once again, I thank UMA for presenting me with this Award in relation to peace and development, the two that are in dialectical relation. You may remember that without peace, one would not be able to talk about development. Should there be no development one would not be able to keep peace. The two will need to go in tandem. To keep peace, there must be development to reduce poverty, to do away with ill actions – corruptions and social injustices. You may ask who would wish to invest in Iraq, Syria, Libya, or Yemen, now. They were like Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s. Now that peace and development prevails, we have achieved 4.7 million tourists. We have infrastructure, airports, hotels […]/.