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interview with Hun Sen

The CambodiaCIA The World Factbook

YI: What about the problem of corruption, Mr. Prime Minister? I know it's not only in Cambodia, but how does Cambodia aim to solve it?

Hun Sen: We acknowledge that there is corruption, and this also makes our good governance weak. And this also deplete ... of development. And therefore in our ... strategy, in which it encompassed many types of reform we count on good governance as the backbone for our success. In our ... strategies good governance is a backbone, and in this backbone, good governance, there are four angles. One of the angles is the fighting against corruption. The second angle is the reform of the judiciary and court of law reform. The third one is the public administration reform. The fourth one is the reform of the armed forces. I acknowledge that the fighting against corruption, it seems to be harder than fighting against the Khmer Rouge or fighting to destroy or putting an end to the political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge. I've been sitting and doing the studies on how to destroy the Khmer Rouge and after that I put forward the win-win policies in which we could destroy the political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge. And also did the study of how to fight corruption. So I found that fighting corruption is even harder. The difference is that the Khmer Rouge is another side. So we find the way, the tactics and the strategies to fight and destroy them. But corruption is with us, so it's harder. Therefore I think it needs from us to be serious, to be patient and to be decisive. Last week the council of Ministers made the adoptions on the judiciary and court of law reform. The judiciary and court of law reform could be considered as one of the important elements to fight against corruption. It will not be long before we put into practice the law against corruption. But I state that there will be difficulties and it is not an exclusive problem of Cambodia, it's a universal problem. ...

We can say that we are benefiting many ways in joining this regional organization. First, one has to talk that what are the attracting point for Cambodia to join this organization. One of the most attracting point for us to join ASEAN is the principle of safeguarding of our independence and sovereignty is the vision of neighboring countries. You see one of the important principle of ASEAN is the non-interference to the internal affairs of each others. So when we joined ASEAN we expect that there will be no interference from other countries, like before we join ASEAN. Second is the spirit of community, which is very important for a small country like Cambodia. We say that there is equal footing and equal right as a partnership. So the way we are looking at ASEAN is ... So whether it's a big or small country, rich or poor country, we have the right to make a decision in the benefit of our region. The third point is that all the ASEAN countries are more developed than us. So that when we joined ASEAN we are expecting to profit from the transfer of technology, from trading, which all that helps us to integrate into the region. You see, we have profited already from the training of human resources, from the transfer of technology from our ASEAN partners ... And the last point which is also important for Cambodia which is a point of protection is that ASEAN is the diplomatic exit ... of Cambodia. You may be well aware that ASEAN has many partners in the region and outside the region. So when we joined ASEAN we also enjoy this opportunity, that is opening up the gate for Cambodia to the outside world. There are two forums. One is the World Trade Organization. If Cambodia is not a member of ASEAN, until now we could not be members of WTO. The second forum is the ASEAN-Europe forum which is called ASEM, if Cambodia is not a member of ASEAN until now we can not be a member of ASEM. So the question you posed about the benefit of Cambodia joining ASEAN is all the four point I mention.

YI: It must also be easier as ASEAN member to balance relations between the two big countries on each side of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand?

Hun Sen: This is the first point I mention. You see when we are a member of ASEAN it's easier for us to solve other problems with our neighboring countries, when we are a member of ASEAN everything seems to be easier than before including solving border problems with our two main neighbors.

YI: Mr. Prime Minister, how do you see Cambodia ten years from now?

Hun Sen: You see, for the next ten years I think that what we need first of all is to strengthen ourselves so that we can hold firm our own destiny. I mean that we can reduce our dependence on outside independence in the field of social and economic developments. I think we are now still much dependent on assistance and loan. The next ten years we still need assistance and loan but the amount would be much reduced because of our own effort. You see the rate of poverty could be reduced and the other problem like illiteracy and others would be much improved. Let's say that on irrigation, we can say that for the next ten years our country will be mostly irrigated land. And that is all our expectation and we are working hard toward that goal.

YI: You have been called a political survivor because of your years in politics and because you have been able to survive many political battles. To what do you attribute your resilience?

Hun Sen: This could be described in two ways, first is about, I mean, die or survive. In a way it could be a bit superstitious. You see in a way I could describe that as a soldier who has been engaged in a hundred and five battles, who has got bombed five times, and then I could return from many assassinations, so in a superstitious way I think that because of the influence of the spirit of Buddha or maybe because of some .... Sometimes I even have questions myself. How could I survive until now based on the facts that I have been undergoing many difficult times for over 30 years. You see that if you're a bit superstitious, and then you believe in some abstract things, you seem to believe that each person have some inner spirit to safeguard you. Science cannot explain it but to me there are some unique things that happened with me. Some things to be happened in the next two or three days, sometimes you know that the thing that happened during your dream two or three days before that. I do not know about the other people, but for me this happened. And therefore I believe that there is some spirit that always takes care of me, safeguarding me. You see, maybe it's not the real answer to your question but that is related to death and life ... of my life based on the fact that I have been undergoing many experiences. Now I return to the normal answers, the reason why I could survive, to date I been twenty six years in power, as a foreign minister, as a deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and prime minister. Just being the prime minister alone I have been in this position for twenty years, one can ask why I could be so long in power. My response is that it's the people, with the people's support you can be in power. Without the people's support you cannot be in power. Not to talk about your power by election or not by election, without the people's support you cannot be there. So that I can say that the people is my firm foundation to be in this position. You see, my future also completely depends on the people, therefore I'm always thinking of what should I do for my people. Because if you do for the people, in return people will also help you.

YI: Well we've heard from you the spiritual reason for your resilience and the political reason, could Golf also have a role in how you've survived all your problems and your difficult situations?

Hun Sen: Golf is a new sport and new game for me in which I took just five years ago. Before I did not even know what is Golf. You see, but I used to be a sportsman, I used to play football, I used to play volleyball, so when I just turn from one sport to another it's not hard for me to start. You see, when I was really occupied with work, especially from the year 1988 until the year 2000 for the peace talk, I did not have time to play a sport at all. When I do not have time to play sport then I also get often ill. You see because of too much work then during that time I have to take a drip. But when I started to play golf, I stopped taking the drip and I feel my legs and my hands feel strong. I learned golf, I can master it, it is not so good, but at least I can play with my friends.

YI: On that note Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time, it's been an interesting hour.

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