Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Acceptance Speech of Honorary Doctorate in Development from the Royal University of Phnom Penh [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

(1) As long as I Can Breathe, I Will Continue to Study

First of all, let me express my deep gratitude to the Royal University of Phnom Penh for deciding to award me the honorary doctorate in Development. I would like to thank the Board of Directors of the Royal Academy (of Cambodia), especially the Ministry of Education, for evaluating my works and deciding to award me the honorary doctorate […] I would like to thank His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, for concluding excellent remarks and I am satisfied with the five assessments related to my character, which has made me a lifelong learner, not just today. I still believe in myself that as long as I can breathe, I will continue to study.

I would like to thank the university leadership as well as the professors at the university for giving me a high rating, and starting from the Royal University of Phnom Penh that I had a basis for seeking a postgraduate opportunity, a PhD in Political Science. That picture (right there) is the one that I did my bachelor’s dissertation here before proceeding to getting a doctorate in political science. Of course, so far, according to what has been published in this book, I have received at least ten honorary degrees, two of which are in the country and several others from foreign institutions […]

(2) Two Factors Allow Cambodia to Hold the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh

What I should talk about today, since it is quite a broad topic. This draft speech is not enough for me to say. What should I share during our get-togethers? I would like to take a practical topic that is happening right now to share and point out that one of the successes associated with the development or political leadership in the country and abroad is that Cambodia is now organizing the ASEAN meeting and the relevant meetings with external partners, the superpowers included, who gathered for meetings in Phnom Penh. I should share this to point out why Hun Sen is so resolute with (bringing Cambodia) into ASEAN […] Before getting to that point, I should clarify a bit why we can have these (ASEAN) MM and related meetings in Phnom Penh after a three-year interruption or maybe two years – in 2020-21. ASEAN did not meet in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cambodia is now hosting a live meeting in Phnom Penh. What are the factors that enable us to open (ASEAN) meetings and bring together participants within the framework of ASEAN family partners and external developed partners, among which, in terms of the permanent members of the Security Council, three superpowers are present? […]

The biggest factor is safety. This safety […] is possible because of the peace that we have won with difficulties and we have protected it vehemently. Some countries do not require us to provide a bullet proof car […] this factor of peace and political stability provides an opportunity for an external (security) assessment of our partners to come to the Kingdom of Cambodia for a meeting. More importantly (we) observed that our partners, such as the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of foreign policy and security, before coming to Phnom Penh, he visited (temples in) Siem Reap. Yesterday he bragged to me that he was flying 12 hours to visit the temples. I told him that he has beaten me because I have never traveled much in connection with the temples. The Indian Foreign Minister, also a superpower, went and dined at the Kravan temple at night.

If there is no peace in this country, not to mention those leaders representing the country and the European Union to go there, even tourists do not dare to travel. That is why we need to see the importance of peace, which I always say, “let us not wait until we lost peace to cry and seek for it.” We must safeguard peace because peace relates with human life and the country’s development […] peace (and security) the first factor that gives us the opportunity to hold meetings in the country with external partners to be present, except for the Philippines, where her foreign minister is Covid-19 positive Kovid-19 […] – other than that, we have here foreign ministers from Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, US, India and Pakistan came and other foreign ministers of some European countries who came to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

What is the second factor? That has to do with how we put Covid-19 under control. Previously, we did not have the ability to convene meetings in person, even as we chair the Asia-Europe Meeting in 2021, we met online. We called it a hybrid meeting because we had both live and online meetings. We dare not do it. But because we are able to put Covid-19 under control, we have been able to reopen the economy and everything, including the reopening of schools. (On the school matter,) I was very concerned as I fear of losing the pace of human resource development. As His Excellency Hang Chuon Naron just said in his speech, he used to receive my message that I sent to him at 1 am, and that was the stage where we had to work like that […]

If our country is still in danger of death of Covid-19, we do not have time to hold such a meeting, and other countries are afraid to travel to Cambodia. Of course, the disease is not over yet, but such security provides an opportunity for meetings and friends who are partners in the world to come to Cambodia. This is why I wanted to say it is our success, which gives us (the possibility of organizing) these meetings (and they are based on two reasons) the security that I divide into two parts: safety and peace, political stability, security, order, society, on the one side, and the control of Covid-19 on the other side […]

(3) Four Factors for Cambodia to Join ASEAN

Now I would like to point out to all those who (have) participated as well as those who listened outside on the point of why Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to join ASEAN. What are the reasons and factors behind pushing us to join ASEAN? There are 4 things I should share and I used to share with our officials (already) especially the youth team before they participated in the ASEAN-Japan Peace Boat […] the first factor is the principle of non-interference in internal affairs […] it is very attractive point. If we do not enter this association, we are alone outside. We are in isolation in the region. This point is an important part of attracting us to become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

What is the second factor? That is the community spirit. What I want to say about the community spirit is that I want to talk about how to work by consensus. This is the point that attracts us to ASEAN. I should point out that in 2007 we were divided over whether to work by consensus or by majority vote […] in Cebu, Philippines 2007, again some raised this issue on how should we (take a decision) – by minority vote or what? I said that if we use the principle of minority vote, ASEAN will be divided. Deciding something (by) voting will always bring forth a majority and minority. It can easily lead to division. We use the principle of consensus, although it is a bit slow, but it ensures strong unity among the ASEAN families. My suggestion was accepted. So far, the spirit of the community spirit working through consensus continues to have its value, and that is why Cambodia has joined ASEAN.

The third factor […] related to socio-economic development through the promotion of integration. It can be seen that we have old and new members of ASEAN. The old ASEAN is more developed and the new ASEAN is less developed. Although Vietnam entered first, Vietnam is considered as the new ASEAN who is lagging behind. Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia are both least developed countries. When we join ASEAN, we have achieved economic development, especially in the field of human resource development, which has now been demonstrating Cambodia’s capabilities in international and regional affairs and is in full swing […] socio-economic development within the framework of AFTA, the ASEAN Free Trade Area […] provides Cambodia with the opportunity to develop from its membership in ASEAN.

What is the fourth factor? That is Cambodia’s vast diplomatic exit. ASEAN has so many partners, as soon as Cambodia joins ASEAN, Cambodia has a wide range of partners, whereas existing partners in dialogue with ASEAN – in Europe, US, China, Korea and Japan – become our partners. We also wanted to invite the African side to join. In 2002, when we held the ASEAN Summit and related summits, we also hosted the first ASEAN-Africa meeting, represented by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, in Phnom Penh within the framework of which Cambodia chaired the meeting at the time.

(4) Cambodia Capable to Respond and Coordinate Meetings with Unprecedented Topics

These four points give us the opportunity to implement domestic and foreign policies together to accelerate Cambodia’s progress. In actuality, people see clearly now that our friends and partners have come to Phnom Penh. If we do not join ASEAN, why do these people need to come to Cambodia? That is one of the points of Hun Sen’s political decision, it is not too common […] I should also say a little bit that our friends are all tolerant of us, realizing that during Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2022, there are many hot topics that have never happened before. Even arranging a seat is difficult because there is now conflict in Europe and in some places. They do not want to sit next to each other. It is not easy, and making a statement is not easy too. Cambodia however has made efforts to respond and mediate that.

This year, we already met with a partner, the United States, in May, in Washington. It was in that meeting that we have decided to upgrade ASEAN-US relations to a strategic partnership. This is something we have already done, but apart from this meeting in Phnom Penh (in) November, we still have to organize another meeting and co-chair, and that will be the ASEAN and Europe meeting in Brussels, at the EU headquarters […] as the chair of ASEAN, I received an invitation from the G20 countries […] to attend the G20 summit, and I also received an invitation from the APEC chair (for a meeting) in Thailand […] where all these start – they are starting from our right decision to become a member of ASEAN. Hopefully you students and those who listened to this speech should know what (factors) are attracting us into the ASEAN framework […]

(5) Establishment of RCEP Secretariat with Phnom Penh Proposed

My sharing is for our understanding of ASEAN, which this year we host, and we must continue to address issues within our framework […] Cambodia has an ambition to become the location of the 15-member RCEP Secretariat. RCEP has 10 ASEAN members nations and 5 partners – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. We would like to have a separate RCEP Secretariat and Phnom Penh would be a good location. While working with our ASEAN partners, we also work with others. I have already made a proposal with China. I have made a proposal with Australia. Tomorrow I will raise a proposal with Japan […]

(6) Japan Provides Loan for Sihanoukville Deep-Sea Port Development

We have met with Japan and signed an agreement that Japan will provide credit for the development of the port of Sihanoukville to allow docking of the 12,000 tons ships. At this point, Cambodia does not have enough capacity to receive large ships. We have to spend extra money and time as our shipment is currently transferring to Singapore or Vietnam and/or Thailand […] it was discussed under the late Shinzo Abe’s power […] sadly he died. I will also attend his funeral on September 27. I asked him that Japan offers help to pump our seabed to a depth that ensures large ships coming in without touching the rocks below. It is now necessary to sign up for the loan […] tomorrow, after meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister, we will have a signing ceremony […]

(7) Children and Grandchildren Encouraged to Get Involved in Politics

[…] These days, they (opposition leaders) call me “the stupid.” I do not want to take my birthday to retort. That person, after arguing with the father, cursed my child. These days, they say I am very stupid. Let me just say a little bit, if Hun Sen were stupid, Hun Sen would not have been able to stand for more than 45 years – 43 years in power, with more than 37 years as prime minister, you might want to think about that […]

At first, when my wife came to see me in Phnom Penh on February 24, 1979, she asked me to return to the village to work in the fields and stop being involved in politics. I told her that I could not abandon the people while the Khmer Rouge were (still) trying to fight back. I always discipline my children not to get involved in politics, but just willing to be a soldier. Now (because of those insults,) I will call on my children and grandchildren to get involved in politics […]

I just explained to the people that if Hun Sen is stupid, who else could be better? While he said that Hun Sen is stupid, it is Hun Sen who used his hand on a key issue to amend the Constitution from 2/3 majority to 50 + 1. That is equivalent to handing over the land to Hun Sen. In a way, the country is lucky that it is under Hun Sen, because he has maintained peace and stability every day and developed the country. The 2/3 supremacy in the house had had political deadlocks in the past […] now they accused Hun Sen of carrying out a constitutional coup. In fact, amending the Constitution from 2/3 supremacy to 50 + 1 should be a constitutional coup. However, it was not a constitutional coup but a way-out to avoid a post-election political stalemate.

(8) Tenth Constitutional Amendments to Prevent Stalemate from the Fall of the Cabinet, the Permanently Vacant Prime Minister Post and the Convening of a Meeting by the Dean

His Excellency Keut Rith, Minister of Justice, has already explained (about the need to have the tenth amendments of the Constitution) […] I wanted just to give examples of points where they may lead us to danger. If we do not think about it now, when the post of Prime Minister is completely vacant, a cabinet must be reorganized. At this point, plus the government is dissolved, there is no provision written anywhere at all (to fix the situation). Should the Prime Minister die, immediately the Royal Government was dissolved. Should we reserve it in the Constitution? That is why there is a separate paragraph related to the government about dissolution.

The article does not say about who would be taking charge once the Prime Minister is removed from office. In that sense, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers, all the ministers of the ousted Cabinet just went home. Who would rule the country? Thus, we have stated in the Constitution that the outgoing Cabinet must lead the day-to-day work until a Cabinet is formed. Now look at Great Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned and is now the caretaker Prime Minister. A new prime minister is being elected […]

Now let’s talk about the post of Prime Minister that is completely vacant. There are two types of situations. One situation is that the Prime Minister is dead […] the post of the Prime Minister is completely vacant here (according to the previous article) in the Constitution. It is very dangerous that (we) have not yet filled it because it creates a chaotic situation (when) there is no government. Just saying that if the post of Prime Minister is completely vacant, a Cabinet will be reorganized. We may ask who is in charge of organizing? Therefore, if the Prime Minister dies, the Deputy Prime Minister who was appointed as the Acting Prime Minister shall be responsible for directing the day-to-day work so that before the new government takes office there is no shortcomings here to fill in the gaps […]

As for the post of Prime Minister who is completely vacant, because the Prime Minister resigned, nothing stated in the Constitution. Generally speaking, in the Constitution, the position of the Prime Minister is completely vacant, either death or resignation is not stated at all. Some have suggested that the case of the prime minister’s resignation should file to the National Assembly, or they meant to implement parliamentarian system. Please do not forget that the King is the head of state. If the head of state nominates you, you must submit your resignation to the nominator, the King, who is the head of state, with a carbon copy to the National Assembly. It is said that bringing the matter straight to the king is by passing the National Assembly. It is not like that. The National Assembly has not lost any role […]

Let us ask a question. Where does the President of the National Assembly and the Vice President of the National Assembly come from? They are from the winning Party, or the Party with majority votes. (In Cambodia), […] although the King appoints the Prime Minister, but the government appointed by the National Assembly. The one who can dissolve the government is the National Assembly. If the National Assembly does not vote to confide, the King’s appointment will not be valid because the Prime Minister lists the members of the Royal Government without the trust of the National Assembly. Where would the National Assembly lose its role? Or are you just talking out loud to make noise? […]

Some suggest waiting a little longer for a referendum. We did numerous (amendments) before without calling for a referendum and we are now facing with bCovid-19, we should carry it through quickly. This is probably the last time to fill in the gaps (in the Constitution). Even the dean, […] the first session of the National Assembly has to be carried out under the chairmanship of the dean. But if we put (it openly like that) the issue of the dean will have the National Assembly in hostage […] what is the situation like? It is a situation of power impasse. Example: The dean comes from the opposition, and may not want to lead the National Assembly session. That is why it is stated clearly in that paragraph that, “the dean refers to the oldest person,” but “that person has to be the one who comes to work.” If the person does not go to work, then the one who does must lead the meeting. You may ask why do we do this? […] is this in the national interest or is it the way of inheriting Hun Sen’s family? […]

(9) A Reconsideration of Sanctions on Russia Proposed

As for the issue of discussion within the ASEAN framework, let the ASEAN officials do so. The issuance of the statement of the chair of ASEAN or the whole of ASEAN is still ongoing […] of course, there have been some news in media about the point that I have asked both Europe and the US to look at sanctions. We know very well that the problem started from Russia going to Ukraine, and the Russia-Ukraine war. That was the point that started to have this punishment and/or sanction. As far as sanctions are in place, they create crisis not only on Russia, but also on Europe and on us that oil prices are hiking. Therefore, it is suggested that the issue be reconsidered. How to reduce the impact on the world economy […]

This point has been picked up by a country that is small but is practicing its equal rights and footing. You have the right to speak, I also have the right to think and speak. There is an opportunity to speak and we must speak. We met in person with the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Foreign Affairs and Security. He acknowledged that the percentage of gas consumption has now been reduced in Europe. This is not yet winter. What happens when winter comes? Russia keeps only 20% of supply now. What if Russia cut all out? […]

I have put forth an argument whether or not the climate change agreement still has any meaning. The world has announced to stop building coal-fired power plants. At a meeting in Britain, they announced that they would stop producing coal-fired power. But Europe itself now uses coal because it lacks gas supplies from Russia. If Europe uses coal, other places can also use coal. If so, at the end of the day, what the main concern closely related to climate change would mean? This is our freedom of thought […]./.