The Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) has announced the launch of the English-language version of the seminal work Samdech Techo Hun Sen: Man of Cambodia’s Destiny, after six months of translation.

The launch took place on October 25 during the 2023 Phnom Penh Forum, an annual event which brings together representatives of the government, NGOs, think tanks and academic institutions. Founded by the RAC’s International Relations Institute, this year’s forum featured the theme “Minilateralism: ASEAN Centrality and Great Power Rivalry”.

The biography, which details the life of former Prime Minister Hun Sen and his significant role in the formation of modern Cambodia, was authored by Keo Baphnom, then-Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister and head of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s [CPP] historical research committee.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute who headed the English-language translation team, described the book as containing many valuable lessons in diplomacy.

“We faced some challenges with the translation, because this is a document which covers the modern history of Cambodia – including the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Some of the technical terms related to the political ideology of that time and the names of some geographical locations in Vietnam were difficult for the working group to translate accurately,” he said.

Phea said the book reveals many of the secrets of Hun Sen’s life, including a great many political issues that no one knew about previously. He believes the book holds great diplomatic value, reflecting on the diplomacy practiced by a small state like Cambodia as it struggled in the storms of the Cold War, as well as to recover from the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

The book also deals with the difficult struggles the nation faced under undue international pressure from 1979 to 1993, before detailing the conclusion of the “unprecedented 500-year quest for complete peace”.

Phea explained that the book provides the information that foreign readers need to learn about Hun Sen in particular – and Cambodia in general – to understand the Kingdom in a regional and global political context.

He noted that many people from abroad have never understood how Cambodia survived the genocidal regime, or its efforts to find peace, nor especially how Cambodia has developed as rapidly as it has.

“The diplomacy of such a small state is an important lesson for the world that needs to be shared. It is fascinating to learn how [Hun Sen] guided Cambodian diplomacy so it could face international pressure and still strived to survive, rebuild and develop. It is remarkable that the Kingdom has developed to the point where it now plays an active, important role in regional and international affairs,” he added.

RAC secretary-general Yang Poeu described the work as holding true value in terms of the history of Cambodia, as well as containing lessons for the world. He claimed that Hun Sen is a key figure in modern history, and serves as a role model in terms of diplomacy, as the key figure who brought comprehensive peace and development to Cambodia.

“The translation of this biography into English will make a significant contribution to facilitating the study and understanding of Cambodia by foreigners, especially modern Cambodia,” he said.

Pov Sok, a personal adviser to Hun Sen and an author who has published several works on the former prime minister himself, believes that the book will serve as a document which matches Cambodia’s last 500 years of history. He suggested that all young Cambodians read the book.

“The translation of this book into English is a great opportunity for us to make our foreign friends more aware of the political thoughts, political turns and complexities of [Hun Sen], the great man of Cambodia,” he added.