The 2022 Sunhak Peace Prize Acceptance Speech By Samdech Techo Hun Sen Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia

  • Distinguished Members of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee Excellencies,
  • Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am profoundly moved and touched to have been selected as the laureate of the 2022 Sunhak Peace Prize. I am so honoured and would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee for recognising my work in ending the long civil war and building long-lasting peace in Cambodia.

On this auspicious occasion as well, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Dame Sarah Catherine Gillbert, Co-developer of AstraZeneca vaccine, who has also been selected as the laureate of the 2022 Sunhak Peace Prize. Your works has greatly contributed to the fight against Covid-19 pandemic and saved millions of lives around the world.

For me, this 2022 Sunhak Peace Prize is not something that I did alone. Many other people also deserve to share this prize for their support of my effort to build peace in Cambodia. First, the late King Father, Norodom Sihanouk, the Queen Mother, and our current monarch deserve our deep gratitude for their roles in promoting the spirit of national unity among all Cambodians as a big family. Second, I must thank my family for their love and support throughout my adventure searching for peace for my country. Third, the other leaders and members of the Cambodian government and the armed forces from all factions have played crucial roles in our collective endeavour to build and promote peace. Fourth, friendly countries and the international community aided Cambodia’s peace process and post-conflict national reconstruction. Last, I must thank my countrymen for their enthusiastic support of the government’s Win-Win policy that has created conducive environment for a robust peace ecosystem in Cambodia.

For me, peace is more precious than anything. It the most beautiful thing. It gives people hope and put a smile on people’s faces. People who have not experienced hardship and suffering created by wars may take peace for granted. Those who have lived through periods of violent conflicts or wars know how precious peace is. I wish to share my own experience of growing up and living through decades of the civil war in Cambodia. I was forced to quit my study in 1970 when my country became deeply divided, and the war was looming. My childhood and teenage life, which should have gained great joy if the country had been peaceful, faced only hardship and suffering. I was in great despair about my future and the future of my country.

From that moment, I devoted my life to searching for peace for Cambodia. It took almost three decades to realise my dream, and I had to endure hardship and take life risks along the way. I got wounded and lost one eye. I had to escape on foot to Vietnam through minefields and the heavily militarised border at night while leaving my pregnant wife behind in Cambodia. In 1996, I took life risk again by negotiating with the Khmer Rouge at their stronghold to persuade them to put down their arms and join the government under the Win-Win Policy that guarantees their lives, right to property ownership, ranks and professions. The policy allowed Cambodia to achieve full peace in 1998. It has enabled the government to focus its full attention on national development, and the Cambodian people enjoy the benefits and opportunities that peace and development offer. Cambodia has maintained peace for more than 20 years, and we are committed to protecting and promoting it. From Cambodia’s experiences with wars and peace, I wish to emphasise that “No peace, No hope. No peace, No development. No peace, No respect for human right and democracy”. And I share the same belief as Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon that “peace is concrete action, not a vague dream”. That is why my government has made it a priority to send thousands of Cambodian soldiers to join UN peacekeeping and mines clearance operations in Africa and the Middle East, hoping to help restore peace in those regions. Moreover, although our country is small, we assist the peace process in the region and the world with goodwill, responsibility, and honesty.

  • Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Peace in our region and the world remains fragile and under stress due to compounding factors, including great power rivalries, rising nationalism, terrorism, as well as poverty and food insecurity due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. They have the potential to damage human progress at best and wipe out the whole human race at worst if left unaddressed. Therefore, we need to increase and diversify our collaborations and partnerships to minimise the impacts of those threats while enhancing a robust peace ecosystem. Promoting peace is essential for our present, but, more importantly, as the Sunhak Peace Prize’s slogan succinctly expresses will “Make the World Better for Future Generations.”

Thank you!