In power since 1985, Hun Sen may be the only prime minister many Cambodians have ever known. However, the latest book from veteran journalist and author Chhay Sophal, released yesterday, seeks to tell the stories – and, often, the nasty ends – of all 36 Cambodians to ever hold the office.
Sophal said at a news conference that the book’s subtext was intended to offer a message to contemporary politicians: The idea that “when the water is up, the fish eats ants, and when the water is down, the ants eat the fish” should be eliminated from politics.
“No less than 10 prime ministers were assassinated or poisoned. Others were arrested and sent to jail, or to live in exile until their death,” he said.
“This is because they took revenge on each other,” he added, calling such tumult a dangerous opportunity for outside forces to take advantage of.
While some of the book’s history is well-known to many, much is novel. For example, Ek Yi Un in 1958 served for only a week, replacing 103-year-old Sin Var, who resigned.
The book characterises Hun Sen as prone to playing enemies against each other and highly concerned with personal security after three assassination attempts.
Although he has never been prime minister, Sam Rainsy is included, since “he is only the main candidate [aside from Hun Sen] vying for power since 1998”, Sophal said.