Interview with Hun Sen,
Yuli Ismartono [time 29:55]
Welcome to another edition of THE LEADERS. We are in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, a nation that is rebuilding itself after decades of civil war. No other Cambodian personifies this struggle in peacetime and in wartime better than its leader.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is a survivor. He lived under the harsh rule of the Khmer Rouge and fought political battles in the ensuing transition period to emerge on top. Here to share his views with us, on prospects of Cambodia, on regional issues, is Prime Minister Hun Sen. Sir, thank you for being with us. Let me ask you my first question.
Yuli Ismartono: Cambodia has been described as being on the slow mend following the 1993 general elections that signaled the end of the long civil war, what has been the result of peace in Cambodia?
Hun Sen: First of all I would like to tell you that for us the progress we achieved so far, we see it as speedy not slow. There are reasons behind that. When the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia were leaving, the war had not yet come to an end. They left behind a country, Cambodia, with two controlled regions which continued fighting. If we talk about peace, actually we achieved peace only in late 1998 or early 1999. So far, it has only been a short time before we gained our full abilities for national development. So I would like to stress again that what has been stipulated by the UNTAC peace agreement has not been fulfilled. The second reason is that we started to rebuild our nation with our bare hands. It means that from 1979 until 1999 the infrastructure left behind were completely destroyed. Compared to the other countries in the field of infrastructure, Cambodia has been left far behind. There were no good national roads or railroad for development. Everything had to be restored totally. We were weak not only on this point but also in the legal framework as well as in human resources. There are many other difficulties we had to overcome. So, if we see Cambodia in such a situation, the progress we have achieved so far has been rapid. We only began to enjoy total peace in the last six years. During this period, we were ale to have economic growth of 6.8 percent. But during that period also, we faced many natural calamities. Between 2000 - 2001 we faced serious floods, and then in 2002 we also faced the drought. Later in 2004 and early 2005 we again faced more drought. Given that we do not have good infrastructure, like your country's, what we have achieved is not slow but rapid. What is important, we can say that we have put an end to the war, which had been created by our predecessors. So now the war, the legacy left behind, is now in the past.
YI: Mr. Prime Minister, I have indeed seen the progress. In fact in talking with some people, some people say that in fact the progress is going too fast and not too slow.
Hun Sen: You see, for us, we did not expect to have what we have today. In the city we have a growing population, they are working in their garden, they grow coconut trees. And now you can see that we have people living in the country-side. We have normal traffic, we have normal business. So we see it as a good foundation.
YI: What about the politics. It took your government a whole year to form a coalition. Is that a good sign or a bad sign?
Hun Sen: If there was one year of political deadlock that is not good, not good for democracy, not good for what the people would like to have. What the people would like to see is after the election is a government in place and operational. But because we couldn't form the electoral in time, so the deadlock cost us more than a year. But one fortunate point for Cambodia is that according to our constitution, if there is no new government, then the old government can remain in operation. Now we should review after the establishment of the government, whether it's good or bad for us. If we count the one year waiting time, that is bad. But counting from the bad we also achieved one good point. The good point is that the group which wanted to destroy the government and be in the coalition government remains outside of the government. We were able set up a good alliance between the parties, and we remain in good alliance. I think we are now in a stable government. Frankly speaking, in Japan and other countries, the political parties all join together for nation building, but it was unfortunate for Cambodia that some even when some political parties join the government, they still continue to destroy the government. In other words, we can say that other than destroying, they cannot do anything else.