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His Excellency
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo
Hun Sen
ហ៊ុន សែន
Hun Sen July 2019.jpg
Hun Sen in 2019
29th Prime Minister of Cambodia
In office
30 November 1998 – 22 August 2023
Preceded by Ung Huot
Succeeded by Hun Manet
In office
14 January 1985 – 2 July 1993
Acting: 26 December 1984 – 14 January 1985
Preceded by Chan Sy
Succeeded by Norodom Ranariddh
Second Prime Minister of Cambodia
In office
2 July 1993 – 30 November 1998
Monarch Norodom Sihanouk
Deputy Sar Kheng
First Prime Minister
Preceded by Norodom Ranariddh
as sole Prime Minister
Succeeded by Himself
as sole Prime Minister
President of the Cambodian People's Party
Assumed office
20 June 2015
Vice President
Preceded by Chea Sim
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Kong Korm
Succeeded by Hor Namhong
In office
8 January 1979 – December 1986
Prime Minister
  • Pen Sovan
  • Chan Sy
  • Himself
Preceded by Ieng Sary
Succeeded by Kong Korm
Deputy Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Kampuchea
In office
President Heng Samrin
Prime Minister
  • Pen Sovann
  • Chan Sy
  • Himself
Member of the National Assembly
Assumed office
14 June 1993
Constituency Kampong Cham (1993–1998)
Kandal (1998–present)
Chairman of the Supreme Advisory Council of the King of Cambodia
Assumed office
22 August 2023
Monarch Norodom Sihamoni
Personal details
Hun Bunal

(1952-08-05) 5 August 1952 (age 71)
Peam Kaoh Sna, Stung Trang, Kampong Cham, Cambodia, French Indochina
Political party Cambodian People's Party
Bun Rany
(m. 1976)
Children 5, including Manet, Manith and Many
Parents Hun Neang
Dee Yon
Awards Grand Order of National Merit
Military service
Allegiance Khmer Rouge/Democratic Kampuchea
 People's Republic of Kampuchea
 State of Cambodia
Branch/service Khmer Rouge
Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation/Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Army
Cambodian People's Army
Royal Cambodian Army
Years of service 1970–1999
Rank Cambodian Army OF-10.svg Five-Star General
Commands Democratic Kampuchea – Eastern Region
Battles/wars Cambodian Civil War  (WIA)
Cambodian-Vietnamese War

Samdech Hun Sen (/hʊn sɛn/; Khmer: ហ៊ុន សែន, UNGEGN: Hŭn Sên [hun saen]; born 5 August 1952) is a Cambodian politician and former military commander who served as the prime minister of Cambodia from 1985 to 2023. He is the longest-serving head of government in Cambodia's history. He is the president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has governed Cambodia since 1979, and a member of the National Assembly for Kandal. His full honorary title is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Khmer: សម្តេច អគ្គមហាសេនាបតី តេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន, UNGEGN: Sâmdéch Âkkô Môha Sénéa Bâtei Téchoŭ Hŭn Sên [sɑmɗac ʔakkeaʔ mɔhaː senaː paɗəj tecoː hun saen]; meaning "Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen").

Born Hun Bunal, he changed his name to Hun Sen in 1972, two years after joining the Khmer Rouge as a soldier. He fought for the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian Civil War and was a Battalion Commander in Democratic Kampuchea until defecting in 1977 and fighting alongside Vietnamese forces in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. From 1979 to 1986 and again from 1987 to 1990, he served as Cambodia's foreign minister in the Vietnamese occupied government. At age 26, he was also the world's youngest foreign minister.

Hun Sen rose to the premiership in January 1985 when the one-party National Assembly appointed him to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984. He held the position until the 1993 UN-backed elections which resulted in a hung parliament, with opposition party FUNCINPEC winning the majority of votes. Hun Sen refused to accept the result. After negotiations with FUNCINPEC, Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed to simultaneously serve as First and Second Prime Minister, until the coalition broke down and Sen orchestrated a coup d'état in 1997 which toppled Ranariddh. Since 1998, Hun Sen has led the CPP to consecutive and often contentious election victories, overseeing rapid economic growth and development, but also corruption, deforestation and human rights violations. In 2013, Hun Sen and the CPP were reelected with a significantly reduced majority. Allegations of voter fraud led to widespread anti-government protests. In 2018, he was elected to a sixth term in a largely unopposed poll after the dissolution of the opposition party, with the CPP winning every seat in the National Assembly. He led the country during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after the 2023 election formally announced his resignation as prime minister and was succeeded by his son, Hun Manet. He remains as party president and member of parliament, and was appointed as President of the Supreme Privy Council to the King. He will take over as President of the Senate after the 2024 Senate elections, giving him the role of head of state when the monarch is out of the country.

Hun Sen has been prominent in communist, Marxist–Leninist and now state capitalist and national conservative political parties, and although Khmer nationalism has been a consistent trait of all of them, he is thought to lack a core political ideology. He has been described as a "wily operator who destroys his political opponents" by The Sydney Morning Herald and as a dictator who has assumed highly centralized power in Cambodia and considerable personal wealth using violence and corruption, including a personal guard said to rival the country's regular army.

Early life

Hun Sen was born on 5 August 1952, in Peam Kaoh Sna, Kampong Cham as Hun Bunal (also called Hun Nal), the third of six children. His father, Hun Neang, had been a resident monk in a local Wat in Kampong Cham province before defrocking himself to join the French resistance and marry Hun Sen's mother, Dee Yon, in the 1940s. Hun Neang's paternal grandparents were wealthy landowners of Teochew Chinese heritage.

Hun Neang inherited some of his family assets, including several hectares of land, and led a relatively comfortable life until a kidnapping incident forced their family to sell off much of their assets. Hun Nal left his family at the age of 13 to attend a monastic school in Phnom Penh. At the time, he changed his name to Ritthi Sen or simply Sen; his prior given name, Nal, was often a nickname for overweight children.

Military career and entry to politics

When Lon Nol removed Norodom Sihanouk from power in 1970, Sen gave up his education to join the Khmer Rouge following Sihanouk's call to join the insurgency. Sen also claims he was inspired to fight against foreign interference when his hometown of Memot was bombed by U.S. aircraft in Operation Menu. Sen claims he had no political opinions or ideology at the time. As a soldier, he again changed his name, this time to Hun Samrach, to conceal his identity.

He changed his name to Hun Sen two years later, saying that the name Hun Samrach had been inauspicious and that he had been wounded several times during the period he had that name. Sen rapidly ascended ranks as a soldier, and fought during the fall of Phnom Penh, becoming injured and being hospitalized for some time and sustaining a permanent eye injury.

In Democratic Kampuchea, Sen served as a Battalion Commander in the Eastern Region, with authority over around 2000 men. The involvement or role of Sen in the Cambodian genocide is unclear, although he denies complicity. Human Rights Watch suggested he may have had a role in a massacre to suppress Cham Muslim unrest in September–October 1975, but Sen has denied this, claiming that he had stopped following orders from the central government by this time. Sen claims he had increasing disagreements with Khmer Rouge authorities in the administration throughout 1975–1977.

In 1977, during internal purges of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen and his battalion cadres fled to Vietnam. During the Cambodian–Vietnamese War as Vietnam prepared to invade Cambodia, Hun Sen became one of the leaders of the Vietnamese-sponsored rebel army. He was given the secret name Mai Phúc by Vietnamese leaders.

Following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Vietnamese-installed People's Republic of Kampuchea/State of Cambodia (PRK/SOC) in 1979 at age 26. The Vietnamese-appointed government appointed Sen some authority over the K5 Plan, a Khmer Rouge containment strategy that saw the mass mobilization of civilian labor in constructing barricades and land mines, although the extent of his involvement is unclear.

First appointment as Prime Minister (1985–1993)

Hun Sen first rose to the premiership in January 1985 when the one-party National Assembly encouraged by politburo cadre Say Phouthang appointed him to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984. As the de facto leader of Cambodia, in 1985, he was elected as Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister. Sen oversaw continuing conflict against several ongoing insurgencies during this period.

In 1987, Amnesty International accused Hun Sen's government of torturing thousands of political prisoners, using "electric shocks, hot irons and near-suffocation with plastic bags."

Paris Peace Talks and UNTAC (1991–1993)

As Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister, Hun Sen played a role in the 1991 Paris Peace Talks, which brokered peace in Cambodia and formally ended the Cambodian–Vietnamese War.

He held the position of Prime Minister during the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) until the 1993 UN-sponsored elections, which resulted opposition party FUNCINPEC winning the majority of votes with a hung parliament. Hun Sen and his party formally rejected the result. With the support of much of the state apparatus, including the army and police, Hun Sen and his deputy Norodom Chakrapong threatened to lead the secession of seven provinces and CPP-backed forces committed violence against UN and FUNCINPEC forces although Sen distanced himself from the secessionist movement a few days later. UNTAC and FUNCINPEC conceded a unique power sharing agreement with Hun Sen serving as Second Prime Minister alongside First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh.

Co-premiership (1993–1997)

Ranariddh press conference
Ranariddh giving a press conference to journalists in 1993

Benny Widyono, the UN secretary-general's representative in Cambodia from 1994 to 1997, has observed that although Ranariddh was nominally senior to Hun Sen, he held less executive power. Ranariddh initially viewed Hun Sen with suspicion, but the pair soon developed a close working relationship, agreeing on most policy decisions made until early 1996. In August 1993, while Cambodia was still under the administration of an interim government, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly applied to make the country a member in the International Organization of the Francophonie. The decision to enter the Francophonie sparked a debate among students in higher educational institutes, particularly those from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia who called for French to be replaced with English as the language of instruction. In response, Ranariddh encouraged students to simultaneously learn both English and French.

In August 1995, Ranariddh expressed admiration for the political and economic systems of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. As he saw it, these countries, characterised by hybrid regimes, active economic interventionism and limited press freedom, served as good models to propel Cambodia's socio-economic growth. Ranariddh espoused the view that economic development should take precedence over democratic and human rights. In the initial months of the administration, he actively courted political leaders from various regional countries, including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, with a view to encouraging investment in Cambodia. In early 1994, Ranariddh established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC) to encourage foreign investment, and served as its chairperson. The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, supported Ranariddh's plans, and encouraged Malaysian businessmen to invest and assist in developing the tourism, infrastructural development and telecommunications industries.

As the chairman of the CDC, Ranariddh gave his approval to at least 17 business contracts submitted by Malaysian businessmen between August 1994 and January 1995. The projects mostly covered infrastructural development, and included construction of a racing track, power plants and petrol stations. In November 1994, the CDC opened a tender to build a casino near Sihanoukville and proposals submitted by three companies were shortlisted; Ariston Berhad from Malaysia, Unicentral Corporation from Singapore and Hyatt International from the US. Ariston's proposal was valued at US$1.3 billion, and included bringing a luxury cruise ship with casino to Cambodia, to be used to accommodate tourists until the Sihanoukville resort was built. Before the tender was even concluded, Ariston's ship was brought to Phnom Penh in early December. The Tourism Minister, Veng Sereyvuth suspected that there was backroom dealing activities between CDC and Ariston, who were nevertheless awarded the contract, which Ranariddh signed in January 1995.

In 1992, the UNTAC administration had banned forest logging and timber exports, a major industry and source of foreign earnings. In October 1993, Ranariddh issued an order to lift the ban on a temporary basis so as to allow trees that were already felled to be exported for timber. The Khmer Rouge still controlled large tracts of forests in the regions of western and northern Cambodia bordering Thailand, and helped finance its operations by selling timber to Thai forestry companies. The Cambodian government was unable to impose its will in Khmer Rouge territory, and was eager to regain the logging revenues.

In January 1994, Ranariddh and Hun Sen signed a bilateral agreement with Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. The agreement provided for felled trees to be legally exported to Thailand on a temporary basis until 31 March 1994. The agreement also arranged for specially-designated customs zones to be created within Thai territory, which allowed Cambodian custom officials to inspect the logs and collect export duties.

The logging ban went into force on 31 March 1994, but trees continued to be felled and a new stockpile of timber was created. Ranariddh and Hun Sen gave special authorisation for the lumber to be exported to North Korea. They would continue the practice of periodically lifting export bans and granting special approvals to clear stocks of fallen timber on an on-and off-basis until Ranariddh's ouster in 1997. According to Canadian geographer Philippe Le Billon, Ranariddh and Hun Sen tacitly supported continued Khmer Rouge logging activities as it provided a lucrative backdoor source of cash revenue to finance their own political activities. Under Ranariddh's co-administration, Malaysia's Samling Berhad and Indonesia's Macro-Panin were among the largest beneficiaries of government contracts, as these two logging companies, in 1994–1995, secured rights to log 805,000 hectares and 1.4 million hectares of forests, respectively.

Conflict with Ranariddh

Ranariddh 1990s
The official portrait of Norodom Ranariddh used while he was the First Prime Minister

In October 1994, Ranariddh and Hun Sen dropped Sam Rainsy as Finance Minister during a cabinet reshuffle. Rainsy had been appointed by Ranariddh in 1993, but both prime ministers became uncomfortable working with Rainsy, because of his pursuit of allegations of government corruption. Rainsy's dismissal upset Norodom Sirivudh, who resigned as Foreign Minister the following month. In March 1995, during an academic forum on corruption in Cambodia, Rainsy publicly questioned Ranariddh's acceptance of a Fokker 28 airplane and a US$108 million commission from Ariston Berhad. This angered Ranariddh, who expelled him from FUNCINPEC in May 1995. The following month, Ranariddh introduced a parliamentary motion to remove Rainsy as a member of parliament (MP).

In 1995, Ranariddh made calls for capital punishment by calling for murderers to be executed by the state.

From January 1996 onwards, Ranariddh's relations with Hun Sen began to show signs of tension. Hun Sen submitted a government circular to reinstate 7 January as a national holiday, the anniversary of Phnom Penh's liberation from the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces. Ranariddh added his signature to the circular, which incurred the ire of Sihanouk and several FUNCINPEC leaders. A few days later, apparently to tone down dissatisfaction from party members,

Ranariddh publicly accused the Army of Vietnam of encroaching into the territories of four Cambodian provinces bordering it. As Widyono saw it, Ranariddh intended to test Hun Sen's response to his accusations, of which the latter chose to remain quiet. During a closed-door FUNCINPEC meeting in the later part of January 1996, party members criticised Hun Sen and the CPP for monopolizing government power, and also chided Ranariddh for being too subservient to Hun Sen.

In February 1996, Ranariddh expressed concern over repeated delays in the construction of the resort-cum-casino complex at Sihanoukville, for which he had signed an agreement with Ariston in January 1995. Ariston blamed the lack of a governmental authority in Sihanoukville for the delay. At the end of April 1996, the government formed the Sihanoukville Developmental Authority (SDA) to oversee regulatory affairs and facilitate development. At a conference in May 1996, Ranariddh charged that CPP-controlled ministries were deliberately delaying the paperwork needed to complete the approval of Ariston's project.

According to Tioulong Saumura, the former deputy governor of Cambodia's Central Bank (and Sam Rainsy's wife), the delays were part of Hun Sen's strategy to undermine projects associated with Ranariddh. In an apparent act of retaliation, Ranariddh directed FUNCINPEC's co-minister of the interior, You Hockry to close down all casinos in the country, citing the absence of authorising legislation. Ranariddh also proposed the cancellation of Ariston's contracts due to the delays. Hun Sen responded by meeting with Mahathir, and assured him that agreements which Ranariddh had previously approved would be honoured.

At a FUNCINPEC congress in March 1996, Ranariddh expressed unhappiness over his relationship with Hun Sen and the CPP. He likened his position as prime minister, and those of the FUNCINPEC ministers, to "puppets". He also questioned the CPP over their delays in appointing FUNCINPEC local officials as district chiefs. Ranariddh threatened to dissolve the National Assembly before the end of 1996, should FUNCINPEC's concerns remain unresolved.

Several FUNCINPEC MPs, including Loy Sim Chheang and Ahmad Yahya, called on Ranariddh to reconcile with Sam Rainsy and work with the newly formed Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in the forthcoming general election. On 27 April 1996 Ranariddh, while vacationing in Paris, attended a meeting with Sihanouk, Rainsy, Chakrapong and Sirivudh. A few days later, Sihanouk issued a declaration praising Hun Sen and the CPP, while also stating that FUNCINPEC had no intention of leaving the coalition government. According to Widyono, Sihanouk's statement was an attempt to defuse the tension between Ranariddh and Hun Sen.

Hun Sen rejected the king's conciliatory overtures, and responded by publishing several public letters attacking Sihanouk, Ranariddh and FUNCINPEC. At a CPP party meeting on 29 June 1996, Hun Sen chided Ranariddh for not following through on his March threat to leave the coalition government and called him a "real dog". At the same time, Hun Sen urged provincial governors from the CPP not attend Ranariddh's rallies.

1997 coup

In 1997, the coalition became unstable due to tensions between Ranariddh and Hun Sen. FUNCINPEC entered into discussions with the remaining Khmer Rouge rebels (with whom it had been allied against Hun Sen's Vietnamese-backed government during the 1980s), with the aim of absorbing them into its ranks. Such a development would have altered the balance of military power between royalists and the CPP.

In response, Hun Sen launched the 1997 coup, replacing Ranariddh with Ung Hout as the First Prime Minister and maintaining his position as the Second Prime Minister.

In an open letter, Amnesty International condemned the summary execution of FUNCINPEC ministers and the "systematic campaign of arrests and harassment" of political opponents. Thomas Hammarberg, then Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, strongly condemned the coup.

Prime Minister of Cambodia (1998–2023)

In the 1998 election, he led the CPP to victory and forming a coalition with FUNCINPEC.

The elections of July 2003 resulted in a larger majority in the National Assembly for the CPP, with FUNCINPEC losing seats to the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party. However, the CPP's majority was short of the two thirds constitutionally required for the CPP to form a government alone. This deadlock was overcome when a new CPP-FUNCINPEC coalition was formed in mid-2004, with Norodom Ranariddh chosen to be head of the National Assembly and Hun Sen again becoming sole Prime Minister.

Sen has opposed extensive investigations and prosecutions related to crimes committed by former Khmer Rouge leaders by the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

On 6 May 2013, Hun Sen declared his intention to rule Cambodia until the age of 74.

2013–2014 protests

CNRP protesters raise flags
Protesters against Hun Sen's regime in Cambodia.

After the July 2013 general elections both Hun Sen and his opponents Cambodia National Rescue Party claimed victory. In August, Hun Sen continued to pursue his aim of forming a new government. Cambodians in the United States, Canada and elsewhere, with hundreds of Buddhist Monks, peacefully protested in front of the United Nations in New York City on 19 August in opposition to Hun Sen's deployment of military and security forces in Phnom Penh, his unwillingness to share political power with opposition groups and seriously address earlier voting fraud and election irregularities.

One person was killed and others injured during protests in Phnom Penh in September 2013, where a reported 20,000 protesters gathered, some clashing with riot police. Following two weeks of opposition protests, Hun Sen declared that he had been constitutionally elected and would not step down nor hold a new election.

On 7 September 2013, tens of thousands of Cambodians, along with Buddhist monks and opposition groups, including Sam Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party held mass demonstrations in Phnom Penh to protest the 28 July elections results which they claimed were flawed and marred by voting irregularities and potential fraud. The groups asked the United Nations to investigate and claimed that the elections results were not free and fair.

On 3 January 2014, military police opened fire at protesters, killing 4 people and injuring more than 20. The United Nations and US State Department condemned the violence. US Congressman Ed Royce responded to the report of violence in Cambodia by calling for Hun Sen to step down, saying that the Cambodian people deserve a better leader.

Consolidation of power (2015– 2023)

ASEAN leaders link arms during the 30th ASEAN Summit Opening Ceremony on April 29, 2017
Hun Sen with Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rodrigo Duterte and other ASEAN leaders on 19 April 2017
Dmitry Medvedev and Hun Sen at 12th ASEM (1)
Hun Sen with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on 18 October 2018
Fumio Kishida Hun Sen 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit
Hun Sen with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Kumamoto, Japan on 23 April 2022.
President Biden met with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia before the 2022 ASEAN Summit
Hun Sen with US President Joe Biden during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, 12 November 2022.
Secretary Blinken Meets with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Cambodia (52261951117)
Hun Sen with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 4 August 2022

On 10 June 2014, Hun Sen made a public appearance and claimed he has no health problems. He warned that if he were to die prematurely, the country would spin out of control and the opposition could expect trouble from the armed forces, saying he is the only person who can control the army.

Following Hun Sen's orders, on 31 January 2017, the National Assembly voted unanimously to abolish the Minority Leader and Majority Leader positions to lessen the opposition party's influence. On 2 February 2017, Hun Sen barred the opposition from questioning some of his government ministers. Furthermore, Hun Sen vowed a constitutional amendment which later saw the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolved. This move led to the surprise resignation of opposition leader Sam Rainsy. The controversial law was passed on 20 February 2017, effectively granting the ruling party the right to dissolve political parties. Opposition leader Kem Sokha was later arrested for treason.

On 30 June 2018, weeks before the parliamentary elections, Hun Sen appointed his second eldest son, Hun Manet, into higher military positions. Some analysts had speculated Manet may be a future candidate for Sen's position. Hun Sen affirmed at the time that his son could become prime minister if elected rather than through direct handover, though he intends to rule until at least 2028.

The 2018 elections were dismissed as sham elections by the international community, the opposition party having been dissolved.

Hun Sen blocked the return of exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders to Cambodia, including Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, in November 2019. He ordered the military to "attack" them on sight should they return, threatened airlines with legal actions for allowing them to board, deployed thousands of troops to the Thai and Vietnamese borders, and requested other ASEAN leaders arrest them and deport them to Cambodia.

In 2020, the European Union suspended its Everything but Arms preferential trade agreement with Cambodia due to concerns over human rights violations under Hun Sen's government. Sen criticized the move as "biased" and "unfair", including at the United Nations General Assembly in 2020.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hun Sen downplayed the risk of the virus and declined to introduce preventative measures or evacuate Cambodian citizens from Wuhan during the initial outbreak in China. It was widely reported this was in an attempt to show solidarity with China, one of Cambodia's closest diplomatic and economic allies. Hun Sen visited China during the outbreak and offered to visit Wuhan specifically during its lockdown. In February 2020, at a press conference, he criticized the media for sensationalizing the virus, and threatened to expel those present who were wearing masks. Hun Sen was also present to welcome passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock in Sihanoukville, after it was turned away from other countries. Cambodia started implementing preventative measures and travel restrictions from March 2020 as the pandemic spread globally.

A new State of Emergency Law prepared in response to COVID-19 granted Hun Sen further powers to restrict movement and assembly, seize private property and enforce quarantine. The new law has been criticised by Amnesty International for curbing human rights.

On 10 July 2023, Hun Sen warned Ukraine of using cluster munitions, saying "It would be the greatest danger for Ukrainians for many years or up to a hundred years if cluster bombs are used in Russian-occupied areas in the territory of Ukraine," Sen further cited his country's "painful experience" from the Vietnam War that has killed or maimed tens of thousands of Cambodians.

Following controversy over the 23 July 2023 elections, the King confirmed that Hun Manet would succeed Hun Sen as Prime Minister.

Corruption and land issues

Hun Sen and his family were estimated to have amassed between US$500 million and US$1 billion by Global Witness in 2016, and a number of allies have also accumulated considerable personal wealth during his tenure.

Cambodia Protected Area and Economic Land Concessions
Deforestation in Cambodia is partly driven by Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) within protected areas.

Hun Sen implemented land reform, the "leopard skin land reform", in Cambodia. Hun Sen's government has been responsible for leasing 45% of the total landmass in Cambodia—primarily to foreign investors—in the years 2007–08, threatening more than 150,000 Cambodians with eviction. Parts of the concessions are protected wildlife areas or national parks and have driven deforestation across the country. As of 2015, Cambodia had one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world. The land sales have been perceived by observers as government corruption and have resulted in thousands of citizens being forcibly evicted. According to Alice Beban, the land reform strengthened patronage politics in Cambodia and did not enable land tenure security.

Hun Sen was implicated in corruption related to Cambodia's oil wealth and mineral resources in the Global Witness 2009 report on Cambodia. He and his close associates were accused of carrying out secret negotiations with interested private parties, taking money from those who would be granted rights to exploit the country's resources in return. The credibility of this accusation has been challenged by government officials and especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself.

Human rights issues

Sen and the CPP were accused of orchestrating summary executions during the 1997 coup.

Kem Sokha with Sam Rainsy
Cambodia's deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha (left) was arrested in September 2017, while opposition leader Sam Rainsy (right) has lived in exile since November 2015.

Hun Sen frequently calls for violence against his political opponents during seemingly irrelevant public events, often characterizing this as necessary to maintain peace and stability in Cambodia. In 2017, he said he would be prepared to "eliminate 100 or 200 people if they would destabilize the peace in Cambodia" while speaking at commemoration for his defection from the Khmer Rouge. In 2019, as opposition party leaders prepared to return to the country, Sen ordered the military to "attack them wherever you see them—you don't need arrest warrants at all" while speaking at a graduation ceremony for exceptional high school students in Phnom Penh. He also threatened the European Union if they withdrew a commercial deal: "If you want the opposition dead, do it. If you want it alive, don't do it and come and talk", although they did not give in. "We didn't pursue you because we didn't want to kill you at the time," Hun Sen said to opposition leader Sam Rainsy, although such death threats have not been implemented.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has banned public gatherings, driven opposition supporters from the site of former protest meetings 'Freedom Park', and deployed riot police to beat protesters and detain union leaders.

Several Australian politicians, most prominently Gareth Evans and Julian Hill, have been highly critical of Sen and his government over human rights issues and have called for changes to Australia–Cambodia relations.

After the execution of 4 prisoners in July 2022 in Myanmar, Hun Sen warned to rethink the peace agreement if the regime continued to execute prisoners.

Foreign relations

Sen has frequently criticized Western powers such as the European Union and United States in response to their sanctions on Cambodia over human rights issues.


Sen strengthened a close diplomatic and economic alliance with China, which has undertaken large-scale infrastructure projects and investments in Cambodia under the Belt and Road Initiative.


Sen oversaw a number of diplomatic disputes with neighboring Thailand.

The 2003 Phnom Penh riots resulted in the ransacking of the Thai embassy in Cambodia, following false allegations that a Thai soap opera actress Suvanant Punnakant claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Sen called for a boycott of Thai goods and television shows and criticized the actress shortly before the riots. The riots and Sen's response severely damaged Cambodia–Thailand relations. Sen's Thai counterpart Thaksin Shinawatra closed the borders, expelled the Cambodian ambassador and evacuated Thai citizens from Phnom Penh in response. Thaksin also sent a warning to Hun Sen after witness reports suggested the army and police had not intervened until the embassy was destroyed. Sam Rainsy accused Sen of inciting the riot.

From 2008 to 2013, the Cambodian–Thai border dispute was an ongoing conflict, which on a number of occasions led to fighting between Cambodian and Thai forces. Sen and Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva negotiated a de-escalation on several occasions with the encouragement of ASEAN. Cambodia was granted sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Temple area by a UN court in 2013, ending the dispute.


Further information: Cambodia-Myanmar relations
2021 Special ASEAN Summit on Myanmar's coup d'état (1)
Hun Sen at a 2021 ASEAN Summit on Myanmar with Joko Widodo.

In his capacity as chairman of ASEAN, Sen became the first foreign leader to visit Myanmar following the 2021 coup d'état.

United States

In November 2016, Hun Sen publicly endorsed US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who went on to be elected president.

Control of media

Although Cambodia had relatively independent press during and immediately following the UNTAC era, Hun Sen and the CPP have since come to strictly control media in Cambodia. This has more recently encompassed social media, which surpassed traditional media as a news source for Cambodians in 2017.

Television, radio and newspapers

Bayon Television is owned and operated by Hun Mana, Hun Sen's eldest daughter. Apsara TV [fr] is joint-owned by Say Sam Al, CPP Minister of Environment and son of Say Chhum, CPP secretary and the son of CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. CTN, CNC and MyTV are all owned by Khmer-Chinese tycoon, Kith Meng.

CPP officials claim that there is no connection between the TV stations and the state. However, CPP lawmaker and official spokesman Cheam Yeap once stated "We pay for that television [coverage] by buying broadcasting hours to show our achievements".

A demand for television and radio licenses was one of 10 opposition requests adopted by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) at its "People's Congress" in October 2013.

Radio stations were banned from broadcasting Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in August 2017. The country's most prominent independent newspaper Cambodia Daily was closed on 4 September 2017, a day after the main opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested for treason. The Phnom Penh Post, another widely circulated independent newspaper, was sold to a Malaysian investor with ties to Hun Sen in 2018, which undermined its independence and aligned it closer to the government.

Personal life

The Vice President, Shri Mohd. Hamid Ansari and Smt. Salma Ansasri with the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen at the ceremonial reception, at Peace Palace, in Phonm Penh, Cambodia on September 16, 2015
Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany at the ceremonial reception of the then Vice President of India at Peace Palace, Phnom Penh

Hun Sen is married to Bun Rany. They have 6 children, including one adopted daughter: Kamsot (deceased), Manet, Mana, Manith, Mani and Mali. The couple also adopted a daughter (who is not named in news media sources) in 1988, but they legally disowned her in 2007 for being lesbian. In 2010, Manet was promoted Major General in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and became the Deputy Commander of the Prime Minister's Body Guard headquarters. All three of Hun Sen's sons play big roles in his government. His older brother, Hun Neng, was a governor of Kampong Cham and a member of parliament.

Hun Sen is fluent in Vietnamese, in addition to his native Khmer. Hun Sen also speaks some English after beginning to learn the language in the 1990s, but usually converses in Khmer through interpreters when giving formal interviews to the English-speaking media.

Hun Sen is blind in one eye because of an injury he sustained during the fall of Phnom Penh while fighting for the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen is a Buddhist. He has made major donations for the renovation of numerous pagodas, including Wat Vihear Suor.

Until June 2022, Hun Sen has used 4 April 1951 as his legal birthdate even if he was actually born on 5 August 1952. He had it changed due to a Cambodian superstition relating to having wrong legal birthdates causing conflict with the Chinese zodiac. A lot of Cambodians use two birthdates due to losing their birth certificates during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s. Hun Sen had it changed for believing the death of his brother in May 2022 due to a cardiac arrest was related to this superstition since he also had an incorrect birth date.


National Orders:

  • KHM Grand Order of National Merit rib.png Grand Order of National Merit (1996)
  • KHM Ordre Royal du Cambodge - Grand Croix BAR.png Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia
  • KHM Royal Order Of Sowathara - Grand Cross rib.png Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sowathara
  • KHM Royal Order of Monisaraphon - Grand Cross.png Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Monisaraphon
  • KHM Sena Jayaseddh Medal - v.2.png Sena Jayaseddh Medal
  • KHM National Defence Medal - gold x2 BAR.svg Medal of National Defense, with 2 gold stars
  • KHM National Defence Medal - silver x2 BAR.svg Medal of National Defense, with 2 silver stars
  • KHM National Defence Medal - bronze x2 BAR.svg Medal of National Defense, with 2 bronze stars
  • KHM Medal of Labour.png Medal of Labour
  • KHM National Construction Decoration.png National Construction Decoration

Foreign Orders:

  • Brunei:
    • Sultan's Golden Jubilee Medal (2017).jpg Recipient of the Sultan of Brunei Golden Jubilee Medal (2017)
  • Cuba:
    • Ribbon jose marti.png Recipients of the Order of José Martí (1999)
  • Laos:
    • LAO Gold Medal of the Nation BAR.svg Gold Medal of the Nation (2008)
  • Philippines:
    • PHL Order of Sikatuna - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Cross (Datu) of the Order of Sikatuna
  • Russia:
    • Orden of Friendship.png Recipients of the Order of Friendship (2021)
  • Thailand:
    • Order of the White Elephant - Special Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Knight Special Grand Cordon of the Order of the White Elephant (2001)
  • Ukraine:
    • Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise 1st 2nd and 3rd Class of Ukraine.png Member 3rd Class of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (Awarded by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 30 December 2022)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hun Sen para niños

  • Modern Cambodia
  • Politics of Cambodia
  • People's Republic of Kampuchea
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