Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that under his leadership Cambodia had never fallen after countries withdrew aid, and that the Kingdom would continue to remain strong.
Hun Sen was presiding over a ceremony at the Chaktomuk Theatre Hall in Phnom Penh to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the National Bank of Cambodia on October 10, 1979.
“In the world and in Asia, has any government stood strong when foreign countries have come to help and then left? Only Cambodia has remained strong. Only the government of Heng Samrin and Hun Sen could do that.
“Look at Lon Nol – that government fell after the US left. South Vietnam fell after the US left, while Afghanistan fell after the Soviet Union helped and then left.
“Vietnam came to help during my administration, and when they left the Hun Sen government remained strong. There were some compromises, but these were under the mechanisms of the Hun Sen government.
“And now too, Hun Sen is standing here, and he will continue to do so for the next 10 years,” he said.
The prime minister recalled history, saying that when Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia in 1989, the Kingdom faced two major problems internally and internationally.
He said the international issue was the presence of Vietnamese troops in the Kingdom and armed factions using the territory of neighbouring countries to attack Cambodia.
The internal problem, he said, was the need to reconcile four conflicting parties.
In addition to speaking proudly of the strength of his government, Hun Sen said the presence of 100,000 Vietnamese troops in Cambodia from 1979 to 1989 had not stopped his commitment to reforms.
He said he changed Cambodia from being a planned economy to a market economy. The Vietnamese leaders, he said, had told their troops not to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs, with their only duty being to prevent a resurgence of the Khmer Rouge.
“That’s why I always tell those from later generations not to look at Hun Sen as a puppet of Vietnam. When the Vietnamese were in Cambodia, they never ordered me to do this or that.
“But with some countries, it was more a case of ‘you work with me and you do this and that, and if you don’t follow, I cut the budget package’,” he said without referring to any particular nation.
Embargoes were placed on Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge despite the unspecified country imposing the sanctions having major business dealings with the Kingdom, the prime minister said without naming the country concerned.
“Trust me, the game of placing sanctions and embargoes does not kill anyone,” Hun Sen said.
He then called on people to protect the achievements Cambodia had made through hardship and toil.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, echoed what Hun Sen said, giving the example of the Cambodian situation after the French colonial administration left in 1953.
He said the colonialists had left behind the French language and documents in French, with Cambodia a developed country after independence. He said even Singapore’s founder Lee Kwan Yew had learned from Cambodia in the 1960s.
“When Untac [the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia] left Cambodia after the national elections of 1993, we could have kept confronting the Khmer Rouge, which continued to fight in Samlot, Maley, Preah Vihear and Anlong Veng.
“But Cambodia solved this problem with the Win-Win policy and brought the war to an end by itself,” Touch said.
Touch said Cambodia was now ready to face the aftermath of the possible withdrawal of the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) or the US’ General System of Preferences (GSP) agreements after undertaking and continuing with major reforms.
“In the past, there were many obstacles with transportation along the border, but now there is only customs and the border police.
“Corruption and bureaucracy have decreased and one-window services have replaced the previously complicated processes, while transport routes have improved,” he said, of the mechanisms needed to maintain investment after a loss of EBA.
He said the opening up of trade with all countries around the world with self-confidence was what Cambodia needed, along with stimulating large and small local businesses.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the countries that Hun Sen had named did not fall after foreign aid was withdrawn, but “the regimes ruling them did”.