The monument north of Phnom Penh lauds Hun Sen’s “win-win policy”, which resulted in the surrender of two leaders from the bloodthirsty Maoist group in December 1998.
A former Khmer Rouge cadre, Hun Sen, fled Cambodia in 1977 and returned with the Vietnamese military during Hanoi’s war against the savage regime in 1979. He was first appointed foreign minister and was named prime minister in the Vietnamese-supported government in 1985.
The veteran prime minister, wearing his five-star general’s uniform, said in a speech that he had “joined with other leaders and the people to turn our pitiful soil that used to be a killing zone into a safe land”.
The 54-metre monument glorifies the 66-year-old strongman leader’s life, depicting him eating rice with villagers, leading a group of soldiers and lecturing at a blackboard.
In his televised speech, Hun Sen said the 1998 “peace” helped unite Cambodia “for the first time ever in its history” while bringing peace and prosperity, which might come as a surprise to some of the more impoverished Cambodians.
“Before, mothers often worried about their sons going to war, wives often worried about their husbands going to war and children often worried about their fathers going to war, but in the last 20 years there is no fear about war and people who used to have to evacuate themselves from fighting now don’t need to move anywhere, and need not have a bunker under their homes to shelter in, either,” said Hun Sen, who took power in 1985.
Hun Sen’s olive branch to insurgents allowed Khmer Rouge bandits to take jobs in the military and bureaucracy in exchange for defecting.
Hun Sen also dismissed the western attempts to weaken his one-party rule.
“Don’t make war by using what is called democracy and human rights, in which democratic countries used to make the mistake of supporting Lon Nol’s coup,” he told an audience mainly comprised of government staff.
Lon Nol’s US-backed regime was toppled by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 before Vietnam in 1979 drove the cultish group into the jungles on the Thai border. The US worked to keep the Khmer Rouge representing Cambodia at the United Nations. Washington and other western powers also allegedly supplied the genocidal group with arms to weaken their Vietnamese foes and their Soviet allies. Hanoi became bogged down in years of guerrilla warfare known as “Vietnam’s Vietnam”.
“You, as a democratic country … supported Pol Pot, who used to kill people with no regards for respecting human rights. You supported them to keep a seat at the UN,” Hun Sen said, without naming Washington.
Hun Sen. Picture credit: Kremlin