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Posted by: | Posted on: July 29, 2020

Cambodia’s PM Earns $2,500 a Month. Where Did He Get So Many Million-Dollar Watches?

“Probably the richest leader on the planet who rules the poorest country in the world,” wrote one Cambodian Facebook user.
Another asked: “Should I be proud or be ashamed?”

———“Loyalty [to Hun Sen] is handsomely rewarded—the tycoons variously appear to have enjoyed immunity from the law, the rich spoils of the government’s state looting and the use of state forces to guard company operations and violently crackdown on protests against them,” the report reads.
“Hun Sen’s love for multi-million dollar luxury watches is just obscene in a country where per capita GDP is just $1,500 a year,” Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a lecturer at the Edinburgh Napier University, told VICE News.

——–“A leader like Hun Sen will not be ashamed of being seen wearing a $3,200,000 Patek watch even if it appears glaring in a poverty-stricken country because it shows his fitness to rule,” Strangio said. “The same is true with many parliamentarians from his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP), a lot of them are incredibly wealthy and have remained in power for so many years because of the political system that plays to their benefit.”
“Wealth and power mutually reinforce and complement his strongman image, even if many Cambodians resent it,” he noted.

———-Indeed, shielded by Hun Sen’s power and influence, his family has engaged in a “huge network of secret deal-making and nepotism that emanates from the Hun family and underpins the Cambodian economy,” according to a Global Witness report on the Hun clan’s fortune.

———–“Hun Sen has always emphasized that he is a man of the people and compares himself to them. He’s good at speaking the rural idiom and often says he understands the hopes and desires of rural folk. But discontent is rising, with landgrabs, evictions, and job losses,” Strangio said.
“Hun Sen is growing increasingly out of touch with Cambodians because he is surrounded and in a sense, protected by layers of yes men and advisors filtering reality to him. And more young Cambodians are connecting the dots, being able to criticize the regime and system in ways their elders could not.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen promotes a carefully curated everyman image, but his wrist tells a different story. By Heather Chen Original source for your reference: The VICE, July 27, 2020, 10:43pm

As the tagline goes: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

In the world of luxury, a Patek watch isn’t just a device for telling time, it’s a one-of-a-kind handcrafted heirloom that transcends generations—the cheapest model can set one back by tens of thousands of dollars, while the finest run into the millions.

The watches are the kind of status symbol at home on the wrists of billionaires, CEOs, playboy philanthropists—and, curiously, the strongman ruler of one of the world’s poorest nations.

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia appears to be an avid Patek Philippe fan, and his love hasn’t gone unnoticed on social media, where he was called out for wearing a $1.2 million Sky Moon Tourbillon with a hand-engraved white gold bezel and blue leather strap.

“No one simply rents a Patek Philippe watch. It is a very high end brand that’s associated with big players,” said Tom Chng, founder of the Singapore Watch Club, who examined a separate post featuring Hun Sen on Instagram, and confirmed the watch featured to be another, even more expensive Patek.

“Hun Sen’s watch is no ordinary watch; it’s a rare and unique find. The high-end elements like the diamond enamel dials and handcrafted motifs combined with the level of master artistry that went into creating such a bespoke piece will definitely fetch a sky-high auction price,” Chng told VICE News. “I definitely wouldn’t see a man of Hun Sen’s status having any issue with getting his hands on a model like this.”

However, Hun Sen came from humble beginnings, and has been in either the military or public service his entire professional life, currently earning a modest official salary of about $2,500 a month. He also cultivates a carefully nurtured everyman image, disseminating images of himself hobnobbing with farmers and motorbike taxi drivers via his widely followed Facebook page.

But according to an eagle-eyed watch enthusiast blog, he has been spotted wearing watches with values totalling close to $9 million, including a rare limited edition Richard Mille Tourbillion Sapphire Dragon valued at $950,000, a model exclusive to Asia with only 55 of its kind available in the world.

“The pretense that Hun Sen earns this salary is absurd. Nobody will buy the idea that he is able to afford these million dollar watches on his salary alone,” said Sebastian Strangio, a Thailand-based political observer and author of the book Cambodia: From Pol Pot to Hun Sen and Beyond.

Indeed, the post with Hun Sen’s Patek Tourbillon caught the attention of many Cambodians and drew a flurry of critical comments, with some questioning where Hun Sen’s money came from.

“Probably the richest leader on the planet who rules the poorest country in the world,” wrote one Cambodian Facebook user.

Another asked: “Should I be proud or be ashamed?”

Both poverty and corruption remain deep-rooted in Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country where an estimated 2.8 million people live below the poverty line, and millions more hover near it. In Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, Cambodia scored an abysmal 20 out of 100, ranking 162 out of 198 countries.

Indeed, Hun Sen’s family and inner circle have “profited hugely from the system of grand corruption instituted during his reign,” according to a 2018 Global Witness report.

“Loyalty [to Hun Sen] is handsomely rewarded—the tycoons variously appear to have enjoyed immunity from the law, the rich spoils of the government’s state looting and the use of state forces to guard company operations and violently crackdown on protests against them,” the report reads.

“Hun Sen’s love for multi-million dollar luxury watches is just obscene in a country where per capita GDP is just $1,500 a year,” Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a lecturer at the Edinburgh Napier University, told VICE News.

“Even with Chinese money being pumped into Cambodia, most Cambodians survive on less than $5 a day. The prime minister and his ruling elite are amassing immense, stunning wealth and there is a clear correlation between them and other countries in the region which sees the boldness of such demagogues in their ostentatious displays of wealth and nepotism.”

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Posted by: | Posted on: January 12, 2020

The Longest Failed Regime in the World

Comment: អានចំណងជើងក៏យើងដឹងច្បាស់ថាលោកហ៊ុនសែនឈ្នះរហូតតែសម្រាប់ប្រយោជន៌និងអំណាចគាត់ បក្សពួក និងក្រុមគ្រួសារតែប៉ុន្តែ។ អ្នកនិព្វន្ធដែលប្រើវោហាសាស្ត្រដក់ជាប់អារម្មណ៌នេះបានបញ្ជាក់ដោយខ្លឹមសារខ្លីតែមានអត្ថន័យជក់ចិត្តនោះគឺទីបំផុតលោកហ៊ុនសែនអាចធ្វើអ្វីគ្រប់បែបយ៉ាងអោយតែរក្សាអំណាចបានរួមទាំងតំលៃជាតិទាំងមូលត្រូវបានលក់ដូរឬពុះជ្រៀកយ៉ាងណាក៏ដោយ។

The Longest Failed Regime in the World

Original Source for Academic Reference: LARB, By Charles Dunst

JANUARY 6, 2020

HUN SEN’S REIGN was never supposed to last this long. The Vietnamese Communists who in 1979 installed him, then a tongue-tied mid-20s ex–Khmer Rouge commander, as their puppet foreign minister certainly did not expect this. Neither did the international community.

Sen has defied all expectations, emerging from the Mekong River–hugging lowlands of Kampong Cham to rule Cambodia as prime minister, first in the Vietnamese-controlled People’s Republic of Kampuchea, then under the United Nations’s democracy-focused eye, later as the country’s co-premier, then again on his own, and now still solo, but increasingly under China’s influence. Throughout these near-tectonic shifts, one thing — Sen’s self-interest — has remained constant.

January 14, 2020, will mark 35 years since he came to power. But Sen, who’s only 67, has no apparent intention of stepping down, although he seems to be priming his son Hun Manet for succession. Meanwhile, his autocratic crackdowns have intensified, and the Cambodian condition remains dire: Corruption is endemic, and some 80 percent of Cambodians survive on subsistence farming. The kleptocrat may now wear Cambodian rather than French colonial colors, but for the country’s rural majority life is distressingly similar to its previous analogues.

Still, Sen’s self-crafted legacy hinges mainly on a narrative of deliverance. He claims to have ended Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge period and brought about a newfound era of peace, stability, and marginal development. “Your contemporary poverty and stability,” Sen’s narrative seems to tell Cambodians, “is better than the state of war in which you’d be without me.” But his true legacy is of autocracy, of fear and corruption, and, ultimately, of contempt for and betrayal of those Cambodians who he has long failed to serve.


Sen spent his early years in Kampong Cham, but by the mid-1960s his parents had sent him, then either 12 or 13, to live and study at a pagoda in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Autocratic and self-indulgent Cambodian leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk ordered the public execution of alleged traitors in 1969, and anti-Sihanouk sentiment took hold of some of Sen’s friends; at least one was arrested. Fearing his own potential detainment, Sen fled to Kampong Cham, settling in Vietnam-bordering district of Memot, according to 2015 Human Rights Watch report “30 Years of Hun Sen.”

The United States was at this point entrenched in the Vietnam War and drowning Cambodia, officially neutral but allowing North Vietnam to use its territory, in more bombs than the Allies dropped on the Axis during the entirety of World War II. This bombardment killed at least 200,000 Cambodians and helped the Khmer Rouge recruit followers. The ultra-nationalist Maoists would eventually kill about two million people, a quarter of Cambodia’s population. But they gained popular support by promising to stop the bombing.

Sen bore witness to this explosive rain, instilling in him what he says was anti-American sentiment. It was this anger, coupled with a standard Cambodian respect for Sihanouk, that seems to have brought him, like countless others, to join the Khmer Rouge. Scholar Ben Kiernan asserted in the late 1990s than Sen was by 16 already a courier for them.

Then, on March 18, 1970, US-favored General Lon Nol deposed Sihanouk, transforming Cambodia from a neutral to an American-aligned state and forcing the monarch into Chinese and North Korean exile. Stung by betrayal, Sihanouk agreed to lead the Khmer Rouge’s resistance, urging people over the radio to join their insurgency. He also appeared in propaganda films and booklets that “helped the Communists recruit peasants in Cambodia and gave respectability to their cause,” The New York Times reported. The paper of record charitably noted that “[i]n the end, King Sihanouk helped bring Pol Pot to power.”

The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch was later less forgiving: Sihanouk’s “name became the Khmer Rouge’s greatest recruitment tool, and the most extreme Communist movement in history swept to power on royal coattails.” By the end of April, the teenaged Sen was a Khmer Rouge platoon leader, and in 1971 he began to rise through their ranks, putting him well within its political and military structures, per Human Rights Watch. But in April 1975, he was wounded by shrapnel, leaving him unconscious for about a week — and without a left eye. While still recovering, Sen was promoted; he rejoined his regiment in Memot in May.

Around this time, Cambodia’s Muslim Cham communities began to oppose the Khmer Rouge. The guerrillas detested the Cham and Vietnamese living in Cambodia, viewing both as having no place in their agrarian Khmer utopia. They rounded up Chams, forced them to eat pork, banned their traditional language, and burned their Qur’ans.

In the fall of 1975, two eastern Cham villages rose up; the Khmer Rouge cracked down viciously in what amounted to My Lai–style massacres. Hun Sen was at the time a commander in those parts of Cambodia, but he has repeatedly denied his regiment’s involvement. Numerous other accounts contradict this though, implicating Sen’s unit, Battalion 55, in certain attacks. Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, wrote in 2015:

According to one testimony by a former Sector 21 regiment combatant, after the unrest broke out and had already spread to Svay Khleang, Battalion 55 was dispatched from the border to suppress it. This is corroborated by the account of a Krauch Chhmar resident who observed Sector 21 troops moving into battle, saying that the units that suppressed the Cham unrest in 1975 were Krauch Chhmar District Military forces, based at the district seat on the Mekong, and Battalion 55[.] […] The attackers bombarded the village with 60 and 82 millimeter mortar rounds, while also firing on villagers with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, killing hundreds of villagers.

Cambodia’s UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, whose mandate extends only to the group’s senior-level officials — which Sen was not — has for years crawled along, delivering justice at a snail-like pace, largely because of Sen’s opposition to its continued operation. But in November 2018, it finally ruled Khmer Rouge crimes against Cham and Vietnamese to constitute genocide.

So I sat, in the sterile courtroom on Phnom Penh’s coral-dusted outskirts, surrounded by Cham survivors and their descendants, delicately capped men and headscarved women, as the tribunal made its ruling, prompting tears to flow — and implicating, at least by association, their prime minister in the worst of all crimes.

“How far Mr. Hun Sen participated in these brutalities is not known,” Steven Erlanger once reported for The New York Times. “[B]ut it is hard to imagine that he stood aside.”


Hun Sen says that by 1976 he began to disagree with certain Khmer Rouge practices, namely their attacks against Vietnamese border villages. The Communists, who took control of Cambodia in April 1975, were also pursuing mass internal purges. So, in June, Sen because of his disagreements (and probably fearing purging) defected to Vietnam, embarking upon a new chapter of opportunism and puppetry.

By December 1978, Hanoi had become fed up with the Khmer Rouge’s Vietnamese massacres and invaded Cambodia to oust their former allies. Sen returned with a force of exiled Cambodians he’d formed to assist Vietnam (“Cambodia’s historical archenemy,” as Anthony Bourdain once wrote). By January 1979, Vietnam had forced the Khmer Rouge back into the jungles from which they came, and from where they would wage war for over a decade.

Vietnam after plundering Phnom Penh announced the names of those who would lead its puppet Cambodian government to be known as the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). This list, The New York Times reported, comprised an array of “unknown” Cambodian defectors including Hun Sen, the 26- or 27-year-old who would be the foreign affairs minister.

The PRK was a police state of which Sen, following the arrest and death of his predecessors, became prime minister on January 14, 1985. He was 32, and in control of the PRK’s armed forces and security units, which he wielded ruthlessly to imprison thousands of political opponents who were then tortured using “electric shocks, hot irons and near-suffocation with plastic bags,” according to a 1987 Amnesty International report. Meanwhile, food was scant, malnutrition widespread, and infrastructure ruined; war with the Khmer Rouge continued; Vietnam’s presence remained dominant.

Sen, there only by the grace of Hanoi, was Vietnam’s malleable marionette.

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Posted by: | Posted on: November 19, 2019

Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Op-Ed: Nekei Asean Review, Kem Sokha will be tried for treason despite being released from house arrest

SHAUN TURTON, Contributing Writer NOVEMBER 19, 2019 14:35 JST

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the European Union flag. The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from special trade privileges over its human rights record. (Nikkei Montage/ Source photo by Reuters)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is pressing ahead with a treason case against a leading opposition figure who has just been released from house arrest, despite the nation facing European Union trade sanctions over its human rights record.

Hun Sen said on Monday that charges against Kem Sokha would not be dropped as demanded by the EU, Cambodia’s biggest export destination. “This case doesn’t require one or two days, or one month or two months, it will take a long time,” the strongman leader said.

Sokha was arrested in 2017 and faces up to 15 years in prison for what the government has claimed were plans for a U.S.-backed coup. His arrest and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling that dissolved his main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), saw Hun Sen’s ruling party capture every parliamentary seat in last year’s national election.

The crackdown, which also targeted civil society and media outlets, sparked an EU review of the country’s special trade privileges under the Everything But Arms scheme (EBA).

Losing the preference, which grants duty and quota free access to the bloc for all exports except weapons and ammunition, could be disastrous for the country’s 750,000-worker strong apparel and footwear sector, which generated more than $8 billion in exports last year.

The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from the initiative, which is conditional on countries abiding by human and labor rights set out by the United Nations.

Its findings were not made public but a leaked copy, obtained by Radio Free Asia, reportedly concluded Cambodia had not taken enough steps to address “severe and systematic” violations of its principles.

In a statement, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed RFA’s coverage of the report was “not accurate” but did not provide any details from the document to contradict the outlet’s story. It said the government would review the report and submit “an appropriate response that will reflect updates of recent developments.”

In a sign of the mounting pressure, authorities last week relaxed house arrest conditions for Sokha, who can now travel in Cambodia but cannot leave the country or participate in political activities. The court also officially closed the case’s more than two-year investigation period.

In announcing the charges would not be dropped on Monday, Hun Sen claimed the court process was “independent,” an assertion at odds with the track record of Cambodia’s politically compliant judiciary.

President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha, right, shakes hands with European Union ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno at his home in Phnom Penh on Nov. 13.   © Reuters

Just last week, Hun Sen ordered the release on bail of more than 70 opposition activists arrested for supporting failed plans by self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia and lead an uprising.

Following a familiar playbook, the moves appeared an effort to soften the oppression of opponents. The government also announced tentative steps to allowing independent media to once again purchase airtime on local radio stations.

Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” said using prisoners as “bargaining chips” was a well established practice by the strongman over his 30 years in power.

“These types of concessions have long been part of the political game,” he said.

“The pattern has concealed a steady drift towards more and more control in Hun Sen and the CPP’s hands,” Strangio said. “The EU had to threaten half a billion dollars estimated worth of economic impacts on Cambodia in order to get Hun Sen to back down on this and it’s taken a plus to get this concession out of him.”

But whether Hun Sen’s apparent concessions will sway the EU remains to be seen. While Sokha’s improved conditions were welcomed, the move also appeared a strategic ploy to engender a split between the opposition leader and his CNRP co-founder, Sam Rainsy.

“The decision has been made to play Kem Sokha against Sam Rainsy, to dilute, diminish or marginalize Sam Rainsy at the time his status has been rising,” longtime Cambodian political commentator Lao Mong Hay told the Nikkei Asian Review. “It’s too late and too little,” he said of the concessions.

Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia on Thursday. He met lawmakers in Indonesia before returning to his base in Paris.   © AP

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Posted by: | Posted on: April 22, 2019

Cambodia to Arizona: Bo Dul’s extraordinary journey to democracy

Cambodia to Arizona: Bo Dul’s extraordinary journey to democracy

Op-Ed: Arizona Capital Times, By: Katie Campbell and Carmen Forman April 19, 2019

Founders Day 2018: Sambo “Bo” Dul – Young Alumni Achievement Award
Sambo “Bo” Dul is the elections director under Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

Sambo “Bo” Dul wasn’t born in a democracy.

Her father gave his life to smuggle her and her family out of Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Thirty-five years later, she’s a crucial cog in Arizona’s elections.

On January 7, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tapped Dul, a former election law attorney at Perkins Coie, to be her elections director.

“It was very hard to think of leaving [Perkins Coie], but I also couldn’t not think about it,” Dul said. “It was like once that genie came out of the bottle, I couldn’t put it back in.”


Dul was born in Cambodia at one of the most tumultuous times in the country’s history.

Her family fled the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide when she was just a year old.

The trek to a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border was perilous. Her father didn’t survive.

Pure luck may have been all that kept Dul, her pregnant mother and siblings alive.

Crying babies aren’t ideal for quietly fleeing a country, so her family slipped Dula sleeping pill before the trip.

As the Duls approached the Thai-Cambodian border under the cover of night, the sleeping pill wore off. Dul, finding herself in the arms of a stranger as her mother had grown too weary to carry her, started wailing.

That might’ve been the end, but the wind was blowing away from the soldiers lining the border, carrying the sound of her cries in the opposite direction. She was carried to safety.

She lived in the camp on the Cambodian-Thai border until she was 5.

Her family arrived in the United States as refugees in the 1980s.

Her mother, Leng Poch Dul, didn’t speak English, so Dul was in charge of completing her family’s immigration paperwork and securing their place in the U.S.

While in high school, the Dul family’s immigration status was renewed for another year, but something had gone wrong with her paperwork and immigrations officials couldn’t pinpoint the problem even after she skipped school in Tempe to go to the immigration office in Phoenix.

Her experience highlighted how bureaucratic errors could plunge the lives of immigrants into a tailspin of anxiety, anger and even resignation.

“At some point, I was just like what can I do? There’s nothing I can do?” she said.

It took nearly a year for Dul to find out that someone had misfiled her paperwork. All this time, she feared deportation.

Dul later became a U.S. citizen, and took full advantage of what America has to offer.

She graduated summa cum laude with three degrees from Arizona State University, and went on to simultaneously earn a law degree from New York University and a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University. She built a successful law career and a family of her own.

And she set out to help others like her family through a pro bono immigration law program called the Phoenix Legal Action Network or PLAN.

Telling her story isn’t always easy, but it’s evenmore important now than ever to combat misinformation about other immigrants who fought so hard to get to America, she said.

Dul said it’s important to share what she went through – and what she does now – out of love for America, Arizona and democracy. Stories like hers prove that immigrants can be “patriots,” too.


Attorney Roopali Desai had made the call and given the pitch.

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