Prime Minister Hun Sen recently took a break from his hectic campaign schedule to
talk to the Post's Kevin Barrington. Looking relaxed and confident, Hun Sen spoke
of the likelihood of his party's victory at the polls, of the possibilities of forming
a coalition government and of the so-called 'government of national reconciliation'.
He defended the Cambodian People's Party against accusations of corruption and politically
motivated violence. He also aired his views on the problems presented by the Khmer
Rouge and he expressed a strong fear that the international community would continue
to recognize the radical faction as well as his newly governing party if it wins
How do you see your party faring in the forthcoming elections?
Hun Sen: I don't have the habit of selling the bear's skin before killing the bear.
But, let's say, we are confident. The confidence is the result of the three week's
electoral campaign. People have expressed more support for our party. The rallies
have had 40,000 to 80,000 supporters. No one forces them to come. But they want to
come just to listen and see me. We are quite confident that we will win.
Do you feel you could get a majority of seats in the constituent assembly?
We need an absolute majority and we feel confident that we can master this majority.
We will exert efforts to get a comfortable majority in order to draw up the constitution.
According to opinion polls we will get maybe 70 percent of the vote.
We have noticed that the people have started to have more confidence and more trust
in us. What's more we are not just talking and we are not going to run away and abandon
the people. This is very important because the people were fooled in the past by
people with empty promises who ran away and abandoned the people in difficult situations.
During the most difficult period of the people's lives, only the CPP stayed with
People also see that I am telling the truth. And if I am wrong, I dare to apologize.
During my eight years as prime minister people realize that there has been an improvement
in their standard of living.
But throughout the country one hears widespread accusations about the corruption
in your party and amongst a number of its officials...
First let me share a joke. One newspaper published an article the other day saying,
in all the 20 political parties, there are corrupt people. Therefore they wanted
to form an association of corrupt people. Another person, also joking with me, suggested
an international association of corrupt people. Because, around the world, no single
country can claim to be clean from corruption, even very advanced countries.
They [political parties] always use this issue. I remember when Prince Sihanouk was
overthrown, the accusations against him were the corruption of his regime and his
pro-Vietnam stance. When they overthrew the Lon Nol regime, they blamed Lon Nol for
corruption and also for his pro-U.S. position. Of course, I am not referring to the
Pol Pot regime because they went too far, even beyond corruption into genocide.
Now the same sorts of accusations are being thrown at me. In their election campaign,
they say that the Hun Sen government is corrupt, that it is pro-Vietnam. But who
makes these accusations? The same people who worked for Prince Sihanouk in the past,
who worked for Lon Nol and who sometimes joined forces with the Khmer Rouge.
That's why I say that the people who make the accusation are old time corrupt people.
And my government is very newly corrupt.
However, I also recognize there is corruption in my country and I personally have
fought against it. But I have to face a lot of problems because of different factors.
First, there's the situation of warfare. In any country engulfed in war, corruption
is difficult to control. Secondly, I have had to introduce economic reforms. It is
not at all easy to make reforms from an old to a new situation. In the new stage
we are not yet in a comfortable situation or a lawful environment.
And, talking about the privat-ization of the economy and enterprise, we do not have
a sufficient legal framework. So, of course, opportunistic people take advantage
of this situation.
Since 1991, however, we have taken three measures to control the situation. The first
one is to issue new legal frameworks for the sake of control. The second was to replace
officials who were corrupt or incompetent with new ones. Thirdly, we have been using
the support of the masses in order to reveal acts of corruption amongst the officials.
So the local population helps us in revealing the face of corruption.
If my party wins the election, I will continue to implement these three measures.
And perhaps I will add another measure that I have mentioned during my campaign.
This involves changing the attitude of government officials. All government officials
have to change their mentality from being people exercising power to being the servants,
the ones who sustain and support the production activities of all economic life.
And all economic players must also change their mentality to perform their duties
in a way that contributes to economic development.
So, I am not just repeating a slogan like the other political parties talking about
corruption, but without any concrete measures.
Mr. Akashi recently made a statement in which he criticized CPP for utilizing
the resources of the state for party political gain. What do you have to say about
One day after his statement, I had a meeting with Mr. Akashi on Apr. 22. I told him
that those officials who are engaged in political campaigning have been asked to
resign temporarily for two months, without pay. With regard to materials, vehicles
and fuel for instance, we are using our party's resources. And as for the army and
the police force, I think the situation is normal. It is their duty to provide security
and protection for me. They also provide security for other political parties as
well. After their daily work they can support any other political party; it is their
I also told Mr. Akashi, 'please look the other way around also, not just look at
Hun Sen.' You have to look into the money which FUNCINPEC gets from the export of
timber. If the revenues from the logging were used to buy TV stations, radios or
even planes, this is wrong. This is not the revenue of the party but of the state.
They use this money to buy, I don't know how many thousands of cars here.
Also we should not overlook the problem of some FUNCINPEC generals who are standing
as candidates. These generals are still enjoying their salaries.
Some people feel that the elections will not be legitimate if a considerable number
of people are disenfranchised due to security concerns. How do you feel about this
I warned UNTAC of an emergency situation, that the Khmer Rouge would disrupt the
elections. But my views were not sufficiently taken into consideration. Right now
everyone seems to be very scared, too scared from my point of view. Of course, the
Khmer Rouge will try to disrupt the elections. But it's not just a question of the
Khmer Rouge's ability. It depends also on our ability and efforts to stop them.
The Khmer Rouge's intention is not only to disrupt the election but in fact, to take
over the whole country. However, over the past 14 years they could not prevail over
our forces, the forces of the Cambodian people.
I think we should not set too low a level of turnout in these elections. After all
the efforts, how can we accept only 50 to 60 percent of the voters casting their
vote? I think that we should target between 90 and 100 percent voter turnout. I believe
that we can achieve this. Because I believe that the Khmer Rouge do not have the
complete free hand to disrupt. We have the means and the people to prevent them from
I am also pleased that UNTAC has set up the mobile teams for the election. But in
anticipation (of disruptions) UNTAC should extend the election for a few more days.
Now we have only six days, we can extend it to 8 or ten days in order to have all
the voters cast their vote, because the population very much wants to cast their
vote. If only 50 or 60 percent of voters come out to vote, this would not really
represent the true result of the election. So why not a few more days? We have been
preparing it for two years already.
Apart from the Khmer Rouge, there are a few more political parties who might also
not want to recognize the elections. And if only 50 or 60 percent turn out, this
could be used by the losing parties as an argument that the election was not fair
and democratic and they might not recognize the results. Therefore they must not
be given this opportunity.
Also, on this subject, there are concerns that there might be election rigging. Therefore
we should not give the chance to any party to argue this. In this election UNTAC
is the one reponsible for the control and transport the ballot boxes. That's why
I told Mr. Akashi and Mr. Austin that they should accept the request made by the
other political parties to allow their representatives to keep watch over the ballot
boxes during the night and during transportation. We very much want that all the
political parties recognize these elections as fair and democratic.
What is your assessment of the Khmer Rouge's current strategy?
Right now the Khmer Rouge have their main objective and another in reserve. The main
objective is to destroy, at all costs, the election process. They have no interest
in allowing the election to proceed smoothly because it will place the Khmer Rouge
Therefore, they will stage military attacks, economic sabotage, terrorism and will
try to persuade their allies to boycott the election or to drop out. But in case
they cannot achieve this, they have another objective in reserve. After the elections
they will issue a statement not to recognize the election results. Therefore they
will continue to harass the new government by military and economic sabotage. You
can notice that Mr. Khieu Samphan objected to the World Bank loan even knowing that
the money would only arrive after the election.
There has been much talk of a government of national reconciliation. How would
you view this in light of a CPP victory?
I would like to speak in concrete terms and not just refer to reconciliation, reconciliation,
all the time without concrete measures, so that's why I ask 'what do you mean by
reconciliation?' But the answer I always get is reconciliation. But for reconciliation,
first of all we have the Paris agreement and this is the auspices under which all
the parties, all the factions must work together. You cannot do anything that goes
beyond the agreement that everyone has signed.
Now would you accept that we blame the Paris agreement, we blame the U.N. Security
Council, we blame all the 20 political parties that are taking part in the process?
Or should we blame only the Khmer Rouge who have not implemented the provisions of
the Paris agreement and have decided to withdraw from the peace process.
The constitution which comes from the new government after the general elections
will create the auspices under which all the political parties should work together.
The Khmer Rouge have already declared their objection to the elections.
Therefore, I believe that they are not going to stay under the auspices of the new
So we will certainly have problems between the group of political parties under the
auspices of the constitution and the Khmer Rouge who will then be isolated. But this
is a very dangerous situation for Cambodia, and if we are not careful it might lead
to splitting Cambodia in two.
The 20 parties must recognize the new constitution as the result of the common endeavor
and respect it. And the one party which has abandoned the process must be regarded
as an outlaw.
The international community must recognize the new government that comes out of the
elections. They cannot afford to recognize two parties, the new government and the
Khmer Rouge. That would be tantamount to recognition of the partitioning of Cambodia.
In principle the newly-elected government, which represents the sovereignty of the
country, cannot afford to control only 80 or 90 percent of the territory. The government
must control all of the territory. So in concrete terms, if there is some fighting
it will not be called a civil war. It will be a kind of fighting between the insurgent
forces and the newly recognized government, like the situation which prevailed some
years ago in Thailand and Malaysia. We will take steps by economic or by other means
to win over the Khmer Rouge or the people under the Khmer Rouge.
But what happens if FUNCINPEC ends up in power and they draw a constitution that
gives Prince Sihanouk the powers he desires and the prince then invites the Khmer
Rouge into the so-called national reconciliation government?
Well, I wouldn't like to comment at the moment. Because at that time it would be
the right of the winning party to do whatever it wants. But if it dares to take such
an action, it will also have to accept the responsibility for that action. I don't
want to make any comment about that party supposedly winning.
Prince Sihanouk has been the major proponent of a government of national reconciliation.
What role do you therefore envisage for the prince, if CPP wins?
As far as we are concerned we continue to regard Prince Sihanouk as having a very
important role before and after the elections. After the new government has been
set up, there will certainly be arrangements for a presidential election. And I feel
Prince Sihanouk should be elected president. CPP has no presidential candidate.
Given that the Khmer Rouge have made a mockery of the peace process and given
that their behaviour has not come as a surprise to you, do you feel angry at the
international community in general and China and America in particular for insisting
that the Khmer Rouge be included in the peace process?
Well, I am not angry at anyone at all because there was a need for a political solution.
I am only a little disappointed that despite our understanding and the efforts of
the international community, the Khmer Rouge continue their madness. And the question
is that no-one has taken action against this madness.
You may notice that the Khmer Rouge have started all over again their genocide-compare
what they have done so far to the U.N. convention on the prevention and the punishment
of the crimes of genocide.
Every day the Cambodian people have been victims of the Khmer Rouge attacks, and
UNTAC staff also have been victims of the Khmer Rouge. But, so far no-one has given
any consideration on how to prevent these violent acts by the Khmer Rouge.
In some instances we were forced to use our right of self-defense to protect the
population and in order to protect the lives of UNTAC. But in doing so we were blamed
for taking this action and were accused of being equally responsible for ceasefire
I am more disappointed that some people believe that by behaving in a more flexible
way towards the Khmer Rouge, they hope to bring peace back to Cambodia. They did
not dare to condemn, to blame the Khmer Rouge. And yet they went as far as to accuse
me of being too severe, or harsh,towards the Khmer Rouge. They did not dare to blame
the Khmer Rouge for their past crimes just because of the need for peace and national
reconciliation. But at least we must have the courage to blame the Khmer Rouge for
the recent acts of violence and genocide. Given all this, I'm a bit worried that
after the election they would recognize the newly-elected government and at the same
time they will continue to recognize the existence of the Khmer Rouge. And this is
very dangerous for our people. This would lead to the splitting up of Cambodia.
On the subject of violence, your party has been accused of murdering political
opponents, and FUNCINPEC claims that the orders for these politically motivated attacks
come from the top, from what they call the parallel government consisting of such
figures as Chea Sim, Sar Kheng, Sin Son etc. How do you respond to these accusations?
We have been victimized by this kind of situation being painted by other parties
over the last four or five months. Now the situation is very clear. Now I am waiting
for UNTAC to cooperate with us in order to investigate acts of violence which have
been committed by FUNCINPEC and the Khmer Rouge. Now we have at our disposal enough
evidence,that people of the rank of general and colonel committed the crimes.
I sent a letter to Akashi, and then a few days ago, I personally met him and asked
him to pursue this investigation. Perhaps you have noticed that since we have evidence
of these crimes the number of acts of violence has been reduced.
If they throw hand grenades into their own political offices and blame this on us,
what can we do? So, right now we have a lot of evidence and quite a number of witnesses.
If UNTAC fails to take action, we will take action ourselves and issue arrest warrants.
You may interview three former FUNCINPEC generals who committed these crimes. [Uch
Kiman, Hun Sen's spokesman, described the three as Gen. Cam Rath, Gen. Su Kim Sin
and Gen. Kim Hang]
FUNCINPEC creates a story from nothing. They just fabricate a story, write a report
and lodge a complaint with UNTAC just to make an accusation against us. And according
to revelations made by a former party representative in Phnom Penh, FUNCINPEC has
already infiltrated about 800 trained agents into a number of provinces and among
them there are quite a number of Khmer Rouge agents. I am one of the targets of their
So FUNCINPEC has 800 infil-trators, who also have been infiltrated by Khmer Rouge
agents, and they are out to assassinate you?
Yes. I am a target of assassination. This has been confirmed by a FUNCINPEC general,
Gen. Cam Rath. He also confirmed that there have been some attempts at assassinating
So is a coalition with FUNCINPEC out of the question?
What we need is honesty and sincerity towards one another. If they recognize their
mistakes and if they do not make an alliance with the Khmer Rouge to commit terrorist
attacks and economic sabotage, of course we would understand and our doors are always
open. But we are not only thinking in terms of the possibilities of coalition with
FUNCINPEC or any of the other big parties. So far there may be two thirds of all
the 20 parties who might be in a position to cooperate with us. Even a political
party with not a single seat in the National Assembly we might invite that party
to come with us, if they would like to.
Coalition is comparable to a husband and wife. Now if both of you want to sleep in
the same bed then you have to have cooperation.
If you don't agree with each other you cannot cooperate. It would be very dangerous
if you sleep in the same bed with someone who tries to stab you in the back, just
like FUNCINPEC has been doing during the past year.
Most of the problems facing the peace process have been created by the Cambodian
parties and the Khmer Rouge in particular, but where do you think that UNTAC has
Every one of us realizes that all problems so far have been created by the Khmer
Rouge. They have not implemented the Paris agreements. We should not blame UNTAC
for this problem. Because UNTAC has been performing its duty according to its mandate.
The mandate was not to fight but to maintain peace.
But UNTAC has not deployed enough of its forces.
For instance when UNAMIC was there and then later on a number of deployments might
have been made in a number of places. Also, after the U.N. Security Resolution mandating
UNTAC to deploy the checkpoints along all the borders with neighboring countries
to stop the trading of oil or the exporting of gems, UNTAC has failed to implement
So far UNTAC has been able to exercise its mandate on our party which is implementing
the Paris agreements. And in some cases, UNTAC overreacted using their rights to
undertake criminal inquiries and using their helicopters to raid our district offices.
But so far UNTAC has not exercised these kinds of courageous acts when it comes to
KR zones or deploying checkpoints along the Thai Cambodian border. However, I understand
the problems that Mr. Akashi and UNTAC have faced. But they should not make use of
the understanding that I have shown in order to go beyond what we accepted. I told
Mr. Akashi this.