PHNOM PENH —
Sun Vorn, a security guard who worked near the home of Sok An, the senior Cambodian People’s Party leader who died on Wednesday, remembers the late deputy prime minister for his early morning exercise routine.
“Wearing sports clothes, he walked around here doing exercise,” he said. Vorn also remembers An’s generosity. As a Khmer New Year gift last year, An gave his family 50,000 riel (about $12.50).
But over the past several months, as An had grown seriously ill, Vorn no longer saw him on his regular morning run.
“I heard from his car driver that he fell ill, and since then I haven’t seen him. Now he’s gone,” Vorn said.
Sok An, 66, died last Wednesday in a Beijing hospital, two days after he was granted the title “Samdech”.
He graduated from a university with a bachelor’s degree in geography, history and sociology in 1972 and from the Royal School of Administration in 1975. Before entering politics, An was a teacher. Little is known of his time under the Khmer Rouge, when he is believed to have stayed in Cambodia. After the regime fell in 1979, he joined the new Vietnamese-backed administration.
Born on April 16, 1950, in Kampong, Kirivong district, Takeo province, he served as a lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party for five terms following the first U.N.-administered elections in 1993.
A ceremony is held at Sok An’s home following his death on Wednesday, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 16, 2017. (Khan Sokummono/ VOA Khmer)
Local residents from his home village remember An as a kind man who helped to develop the area as he rose in the party ranks. “He tried to develop his hometown when he gained high positions,” said Meas Mithona, 36, a farmer. “Sok An built infrastructure in Takeo province, including hospitals, wells and roads.”
An began his close relationship with the future prime minister, Hun Sen, as his chief of cabinet while the former Khmer Rouge commander was foreign minister. Their alliance was cemented when An’s son, Sok Puthyvuth, in 2005 wed Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Maly.
Before he assumed his role as deputy prime minister in 2004, An served as ambassador to India and held vice ministerial positions at the foreign and interior ministries.
He became known as the “minister with many arms” for the numerous roles he took up in public life, including as a key member of the CPP’s central committee; head of the Apsara Authority, the body that overseas the Angkor Archaeological Park; head of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority; and as a key architect of the formation of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, expressed the party’s regret at An’s passing.
“His achievements made history... he initiated negotiations with the Vietnamese on the border issue. He tried to solve the dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple issue,” he said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, sprays perfume together with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An during a ground breaking ceremony for the site where a statue of Cambodia's late King Norodom Sihanouk will be built, in front of Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 20, 2013.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said An had dedicated his life to protecting Cambodian interests since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. “He was a good leader, recognized globally,” he said.
Meas Ny, a social researcher, said An had been a “key consultant for the government” who would be difficult to replace.
Sok An is survived by his wife, Annie Sok An, as well as one daughter and four sons.