The death of Sok An, the former deputy prime minister who passed away in a Beijing hospital on Wednesday at the age of 66, was a “huge loss” for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, officials say.
“It’s not a simple thing. It’s a very huge loss for the Cambodian People’s Party. He was a central figure that will be missed. We think about this a lot, but it’s the nature of humankind,” said CPP spokesman Sok Eysan.
An was born on April 16, 1950, in Takeo province’s Kiri Vong district. He married Theng Ay Any, who gave birth to four sons and a daughter.
In 1981, he became secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and chief of the cabinet of Hun Sen, who was then foreign minister. In 1985 he was posted as ambassador to India, before returning to Cambodia and becoming deputy minister of foreign affairs in 1988.
After the UN-backed elections in 1993, An was given a senior position in the Council of Ministers, and since 2004 has been deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Council of Ministers.
Phay Siphan, government spokesman, described An as a “brilliant diplomat” and a leading cultural preservationist.
“He successfully put Preah Vihear temple in the list of World Heritage, although there were consequences,” he said, referring to tensions with neighbor Thailand, which also claimed ownership of the temple area.
An’s son, Sok Puthyvuth, married into Hun Sen’s family, further cementing the relationship between the two CPP figureheads.
Meas Ny, a social researcher, said that while An’s family had benefited greatly from his relationship to Hun Sen, “in terms of what he did for the nation, I find it hard to say because he had so many jobs. So we don’t know what he has done actually.”
An’s four sons are all involved in business or politics. Puthyvuth is head of the Soma Group and president of the Cambodia Rice Federation. Sok Soken was made an undersecretary of state at the foreign ministry, prompting allegations of nepotism. Sok Sangvar is deputy head of the Apsara Authority, the body that overseas the Angkor Archaeological Park, which An was also closely tied to. Another son, Sok Sokan, is a lawmaker for Takeo province.
Sok An majored in geography, sociology and history at a university and went on to complete a higher degree in pedagogy and later studied at the National Administration School.