In a recent interview with China state-owned Phoenix TV, Prime Minister Hun Sen shared that he believes three significant achievements have characterised his time in office.

These accomplishments, he said, have brought Cambodia peace unparalleled in over half a millennium, stimulated national economic growth through modernisation of the market economy, and effective control of crises fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

From his perspective, the attainment of national unity has been a significant feat, particularly considering Cambodia’s history of conflict and division.

“I have led Cambodia through times of war, and successfully fostered a sense of unity that the country hadn’t seen for over 500 years,” he stated.

He said the government under his leadership championed a culture of dialogue and win-win policy aiming to transform Cambodia into a peaceful nation.

“No government has been able to govern all territories until now. It’s a tremendous accomplishment that we’ve extinguished the flames of war without firing a single bullet. That’s unique in the world,” he said.

The second achievement he emphasised was economic reform. The shift from a planned economy to a free-market system was a pivotal moment for the nation’s development.

He explained that since the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, the economy was built from the ground up, transitioning into a free market that encourages citizen contributions to societal progress.

The control of Covid-19 represents his third notable success.

Despite not having the resources of superpowers or wealthier nations, Cambodia has kept its pandemic-related fatalities relatively low, and has been swift in its reopening process, he said.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, echoed the remarks, highlighting Hun Sen’s adeptness in bringing together Cambodians of various political affiliations, whether they were previous opponents in politics, the battlefield, or civil society organisations.

Ro Vannak, a political science expert, referred to the prime minister as a “strong man”, due to his effective use of hard power in politics. This has allowed him to maintain his influence and power longer than many contemporary leaders.

That being said, Vannak acknowledged Hun Sen’s success in driving national economic growth and infrastructural development, though this growth, he said, came at the cost of a balanced use of natural resources.