WASHINGTON DC - An updated biography of Prime Minister Hun Sen written by two Canadian historians seeks to describe the changing perceptions of the Cambodian leader through the eyes of Western and Asian countries.
“Strongman: The Extraordinary Life of Hun Sen: From Pagoda Boy to Prime Minister of Cambodia,” by Harish and Julie Mehta, includes interviews with Hun Sen, his wife, family members and associates and is an update to their 1999 biography.
The authors recently spoke with VOA Khmer to describe what they called the “evolving” perceptions of Cambodia’s longtime premier. “But what is important and is always forgotten is that Hun Sen is playing an astute diplomatic game,” Harish Mehta said.
“There was a large perception of Hun Sen in the West and in Asia that he is actually not very well liked in the West and in many countries in Asia and that the West somehow always seemed to be against Hun Sen and his State of Cambodia government,” he said. “The new documents that we found actually show us the image that all of these perceptions were not actually correct.”
Meanwhile, Hun Sen has displayed political acumen over the years that followed the Paris Peace Accords, he said. “He has demonstrated to the West and the outside world that he is capable of holding his ground and adhering to his national security interest.”
Julie Metha said she was struck by the way Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany has stayed out of politics and has instead worked at “improving the lot of Khmers.”
“I used to think in the beginning that this was just good PR, but she pretty much stays on that thin line, and she never crosses it,” she said.
Meanwhile, their son, Hun Manet, has a passion to be a leader, she said, but he also wants to “serve the Khmer people.”
“He understands economic issues and challenges, and he has the tools, because he is educated in the West, to know how to be a good leader and contribute to the economic development of Cambodia,” she said.