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C. Kimlong: Address to Summit 2022, Session VIIa

Address to Summit 2022 and Leadership Conference,
Seoul, Korea, August 11-15, 2022


  1. Introduction

This paper aims to explain Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s peace philosophy, which cannot be separated from his peace journey, his achievements, and his contribution to regional and global peace efforts, such as those of the Universal Peace Federation, of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, among other peace programs in the world. While his contributions are many, this paper will provide a brief explanation of his profound engagement in the Cambodia peace process and more so in the journey toward peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.

His vision for Cambodia and foreign policy perspectives was to turn the first decade of the new millennium into a decade of economic growth, rapid reduction of poverty, social progress and prosperity for Cambodia and Cambodians, to create a socially connected, educationally advanced, and culturally vibrant Cambodian society, to boost our once strong and proud nation to become a truly free and independent nation that can reclaim its own destiny, and be a real partner in regional and global affairs. He envisioned having democracy deeply rooted in the Cambodian society by strengthening the rule of law, implementing good governance, and promoting respect for the rights and dignity of Cambodians from all walks of life, religion, and social strata. All of these are the foundations for which he has invested his life in the peace and prosperity of Cambodia.

Cambodia had no choice but to rebuild the country from the ashes of war. Hun Sen has always clearly understood that if Cambodia remains at war, the country would be denied its rightful place in the community of nations at the regional and global arenas. In 1997, when Asia was hit by the financial crisis, he managed to restore full peace in Cambodia. The political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge was dismantled in December 1998. Another major achievement he has made is the implementation of the triangle strategy after the 1998 elections to push Cambodia into the path of long-term peace, reforms and integration with the regional and world community of nations but also to promote justice and poverty reduction (Keo, Chheng & Seng, 2022).

The strategic triangle is about building peace, restoring stability, and maintaining security, implementing Cambodia’s rapid integration into the international community, especially into the community of regional nations, and normalization of our relationships with the international financial institutions. He aimed to promote national development key reform programs, such as military demobilization, public sector, judiciary, and economic reforms including fiscal and banking reforms, land reform, fisheries reform and stringent measures taken to crack down on illegal logging and to promote environmental protection.

  1. Hun Sen’s Peace Philosophy

To understand the peace philosophy of Samdech Techo Hun Sen is to understand his personal and political life at least five decades ago. Born into a peasant family, the young Hun Sen enjoyed only a very brief peaceful society before Cambodia, once an oasis of peace in Southeast Asia, soon became engulfed in the war that followed the coup d’état led by the Lon Nol against the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk. The nation’s peace and security were shattered, dragging the nation into decades of destructive civil wars that followed. His youth did not spare him well.

As the civil war broke out, he had no choice but to quit schooling and followed the then Prince Sihanouk to liberate the country. Soon after, by June 1977 he found himself once again fighting the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime to liberate the country and the people. After winning over the Pol Pot genocide regime in 1979, he, then 27 years old, was appointed Foreign Minister. Since then, his political life had him devoting his time and efforts to learning the arts of politics and diplomacy. In 1985, he became Prime Minister.

His personal and leadership values are patience, tolerance, concession, humanism, sincerity and integrity. Hun Sen believes in peaceful means to achieve the end. As such, tension, rebellion and chaos must be avoided at all costs to enable peace negotiation and reconciliation.

In his accounts of the war-ending, peacebuilding, national reconciliation, and nation-building process, he and the nation had to start from scratch, because almost all the most fundamental hard and soft and infrastructures, including human resources, were destroyed at the helm of the Khmer Rouge in the dark years between May 1975 to January 1979. Prior to this dark period, U.S. bombing of Cambodia between 1965-1973 during the US-Vietnam war had caused immense destruction (Own and Kiernan, 2006).

In its painful efforts to recover, top priorities for post-conflict reconstruction were to train people to deliver public services at all echelons of the bureaucracy (W.I.N, 2005). The painful scenes of the hardships in people’s lives at that time have troubled him enormously. He has put much effort into peace, human-resource development, institutional and legal reforms, justice, equality, democracy, human rights, socio-economic development, poverty reduction, modernization and independence and sovereignty.

There are many attributes of Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s peace philosophy. Here are some major ones:

  • Peace must prevail and if there is no peace, there is no space for human rights, democracy and development. Similarly, if there is no life, it is pointless to talk about democracy and human rights. Therefore, protection of life and security is top priority in peacebuilding as well as in nation-building. At all times, the safety, security and peace of the people must be placed above all else.
  • His PPW goes beyond military tactics and ceasefire negotiations to people-centred termination of wars at little cost to human and economic security.
  • The core philosophy of Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s peace theory is a simple statement that “war cannot end war.”
  • All Cambodians, irrespective of which factions or political organizations they come from, such as Khmer Rouge defectors, were all victims of the wars created by the previous generations. Therefore, it was their common duty to end the war, stop the killing between Khmer people, and build long-lasting peace. Hun Sen wanted to eliminate the structural cause of violence by preventing revenge and promoting a “culture of dialogue” that he has been practicing all along, from peace negotiations with the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk for the Paris Peace Agreements to the Win-Win Policy.
  • A practice of no revenge but tolerance and forgiveness has been in action. After the full integration of the former Khmer Rouge armed forces into the national army, no revenge has been done to their leaders as well as to those soldiers.
  • He emphasized ownership of solutions to national problems and policy for national development, trust building, and realism in conflict settlements.
  • As justice, peace and reconciliation are intertwined, he is acting to ensure justice for the people. Since the 1993 elections, he has focused on judicial reforms and practice of justice. The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, better known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in 2006 aims to provide justice for the victims, a mechanism for post-war national healing and reconciliation (phsas phsar chiat in Khmer).
  1. Hun Sen’s Peace Journey

Peace must start at home. Indeed, it originated locally but then went internationally as Samdech Techo Hun Sen was searching for peaceful settlements of the internal conflicts, beginning his journey in the late 1980s. The 1993 Constitution stipulates that Cambodians are the masters of their own destiny and this resonates well with Hun Sen’s peace philosophy, namely national ownership of the solution and policy to the national issues and problems.

It is good to note that his early engagement in the peace process dated back to 1987. Prior to the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement (PPA) on October 23, 1991 by 19 countries, Hun Sen met with former King Norodom Sihanouk twice to discuss an agreement on how to restore peace and achieve national reconciliation. He had met numerous times with Prince Sihanouk until both reached a peaceful settlement of the Cambodian problems with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. The PPA back then was instrumental in restoring the monarchy, establishing a national constitution supported by multiple democratic countries, and reinvigorating nation-building in the post-conflict era through opening opportunities, freedom and a wide range of other fundamental accesses.

Since the Khmer Rouge boycotted the 1993 elections and continued to wage war against the elected government, despite the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) peacekeeping mission until the 1993 national elections and the creation of the new government, total peace was not yet realized.

  1. DIFID Strategy

The DIFID strategy, namely “Divide, Isolate, Finish, Integrate and Develop” (DIFID), was used to separate the Khmer Rouge from other movements and mobilize the various factions and political groups towards a peace process (Sim, 2022; Nhem, 2012).

According to Sim, initially, from 1987 to 1993, two tactics of the DIFID strategy were used, namely, to divide the various factions of the tripartite government from the Khmer Rouge and to isolate the Khmer Rouge from the international community, especially donor countries. From 1993 to 1995, the plan was to eliminate their existence through localization strategy and international isolation of the Khmer Rouge.

In fact, a lot more was done to administer the steps and tactics under the DFID strategy. To ensure a non-reversal of the country into civil war, full integration of the Khmer Rouge forces into the national army was one of the wisest strategies ever employed successfully in Cambodia (and by others in other parts of the world), followed by developing economic infrastructures and providing economic access to employment, income and livelihood development for the people. Many former Khmer Rouge commanders and civilian leaders were appointed to leadership positions within the area’s administrative, police, military functions and into the government. Along this vein, the Win-Win Strategy (WWP) crafted and led by Hun Sen was used comprehensively and consistently in the peacebuilding process.

  1. Peace-Building Win-Win Policy

Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s WWP that began in early 1996 was aimed at embarking on a peace journey that involved negotiations to end chronic civil wars, combined with the DIFID strategy he employed to eradicate the Khmer Rouge. December 29, 1998 marks the complete dissolution of the Khmer Rouge military operative organizations and the end of the decades-long civil wars in Cambodia as the top Khmer Rouge leaders, except Pol Pot, finally chose to join Samdech Techo Hun Sen to restore peace and national reconciliation.

The WWP refers to the national reconciliation policy crafted and implemented by Hun Sen from 1996 to 1998 to end the more than three decades of civil war through dismantling the Khmer Rouge’s political organization and integrating them into the social, economic and political life of the Cambodian state. The WWP is based on three core elements, namely, the guarantee of life, the guarantee of employment and status, and the guarantee of personal movable and immovable properties. Such conditions bode well with some elements of the Khmer Rouge, although trust was a key factor in implementing each step of the WWP.

The WWP not only ended the civil wars, but it has ushered in total peace and national reconciliation. At the early stage, amidst the fragile circumstances unresolved by the UN-brokered elections and the transitional governance system fostered by UNTAC, the WWP became formidable and highly relevant as only the local actors were left to steer through the storms. In many respects, the WWP was locally championed and led by the Cambodians in the peace-building process.

Indeed, the 1991 PPA provides the basis for the peace-making, rehabilitation and development process of Cambodia. Some may argue that after UNTAC had left, Cambodia moved from an armed to political struggle, from “negative peace” gradually towards “positive peace.” Miletic (2016) discussed these factors in her article published by the Australian Institute of International Affairs, examining Cambodia’s peace after 25 years. Like other difficult and complex negotiations for political settlements, the absence of war or violent struggle can take precedence over peace with justice. Gradually, peace and justice are emphasized as the cornerstones of sustainable development and peaceful co-existence.

Since 2016, a former battlefield has been transformed to an area of development, which shows the pride of the Cambodian nation. According to Hun Sen, the WWP has been the magic potion that ended the chronic civil wars in Cambodia in 1998. Since then, total peace, political stability, security and social order have been strengthened and have paved ways for socio-economic development.

Every year, Cambodians celebrate December 29 to give tribute to WWP which dismantled the political and military organizations of the Khmer Rouge, leading to national unity and peace.

  1. Contributors to the Success of the Win-Win Policy

Before putting an end to the war, several commanders of the Khmer Rouge were deeply involved in bringing about the positive outcomes of the WWP, making it one of the most successful peace strategies in human history. According to Hun Sen, the WWP would not have been successful without the roles of Y Chhean and Sok Pheap, noting that the moment they laid down their weapons and joined the government, the beginning of a large-scale secession began, contributing to the first-ever full national unity, peace and territorial integrity in hundreds of years of Cambodia’s history (Fresh News, 2020). Many more key players were contributing to the successful peace process in Cambodia led by Samdech Techo Hun Sen. A more thorough discussion of those key players should be conducted.

  1. Contributions to Regional and Global Peace

Several outstanding features of Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s contributions to world peace, security and prosperity for humanity include his active engagement in and promotion of justice for humanity, people-centered democracy, rule of law, regional and global free-trade partnership, multilateralism for peace, sustainable development and human development. He views partnership of governments, parliaments and civil society organizations, including the private sector, to be of paramount importance.

His contributions to the peace programs of the Universal Peace Federation are getting recognized. For example, he has actively promoted peace in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. In supporting the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula, he joined the Asia Pacific Summit in 2018 held in Kathmandu and in 2019 co-hosted the APS in Phnom Penh, at which the Phnom Penh Declaration was adopted, calling for the establishment of the Asia Pacific Union.

Hun Sen attended the World Summit in 2020 in Seoul and co-chaired the World Summit in 2022 in Seoul, which adopted the Seoul Declaration 2022 calling for achieving the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula under the initiative of “Two States Towards One Nation: One Peninsula, One People, One Culture.” The Declaration prescribed the establishment of Mekong Asia Pacific Initiative (MAPI) as well as the establishment of the Universal Peace Charter.

Hun Sen has contributed to world peace by deploying his peacekeeping forces overseas and supporting various world peace initiatives such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on nuclear weapons, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (Leng and Lak, 2022). Under his leadership, Cambodia also supports the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality in Southeast Asia (ZOPFAN), formulating the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ), and the US accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). Cambodia in 2022 has co-sponsored a UN statement denouncing the use of armed force and hostility in Ukraine and called for peaceful solutions to the war in Ukraine.

At the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on April 24, 2022, Hun Sen shared Cambodia’s WWP success in achieving lasting peace and reconciliation and peaceful solutions to the current Myanmar crisis to achieve peace and national reconciliation, emphasizing the culmination of the Five-point Consensus. The most fundamental points are: the cessation of violence and the exercise of utmost restraint, facilitation of the ASEAN Special Envoy on Myanmar to facilitate mediation and peace talks, and ensuring humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Myanmar. Moreover, Cambodia as the ASEAN Chair in 2022 calls for an inclusive peace process, which needs to be led and owned by the people of Myanmar.  

  1. Conclusion

The constant endeavour to implement the four dimensions of “reconciliation,” namely shared truth, justice, regard and security, has enhanced the chance to build “positive peace.” Nevertheless, different dimensions may be more vital than others depending on each warring society’s memories, historical features and cultural adaptability. Cambodia’s case seems to suggest that “regard” and “security” have played a more important role in the reconciliation process that has helped sustain peace thus far. The main factor of the Khmer Rouge internal conflict was the large-scale defection of its forces to integrate themselves into the government’s army and respect the Cambodian Constitution and its administrative structure, leading to the ultimate dissolution of the Khmer Rouge’s political and military structure.

The WWP was successful in dismantling the political and military organizations of the Khmer Rouge. Because of that, the full-scale reintegration of the Khmer Rouge forces began, paving the way to achieving national reunification. Furthermore, the wars and armed conflicts were completely ended in 1998. Cambodia could resolve national issues based on the trust between Khmer and Khmer. As a result, Cambodia has enjoyed total peace, political stability, security and social order, and progressive socio-economic development.

In a nutshell, Samtech Techo Hun Sen’s peace philosophy are about the following:

  • Wining is for all where all win though peaceful means and peaceful solutions, that is, not by force or violence.
  • A war cannot be staged to end another war.
  • Revenge does not work, while tolerance and patience bear fruits.
  • Justice must be delivered and could be pursued but not at the cost of “peace and unity” that was hard-won by the Win-Win Policy.
  • Only peaceful negotiation, mutual understanding, and at times, mutual compromise and concession can lead to peace because no single party can afford to be the loser.
  • Social rehabilitation and reconciliation are about healing and rebuilding of a war-torn society, while justice is enhanced.
  • Durable peace is the pre-condition for national development.
  • Former battlefields or zones of conflicts must be turned into development areas, borders of peace, friendship, cooperation, and development, along with good relations with neighbouring countries and with the international community of peace-loving nations.


Fresh News media reports (2020). The remarks of Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed at flood-affected areas in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district on 24th October 2020.

Keo, P., Chheng, K. and Seng, S. (2022). Chapter 5: A Mission Toward Sustainable and Inclusive Development. Hun Sen’s Thought and Vison for Cambodia, edited by Suos, Yara, Siphana Sok and Kimly Ngoun, Universal Peace Federation.

Miletic, Tania (2016). Cambodia’s Peace After 25 Years: Australian Outlook. Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Nem, Sowath (2012). Civil War Termination and the Source of Total Peace in Cambodia. Reahoo Publishing.

Sim, Vireak (2022). Chapter 4: Cambodia’s Win-Win Policy and Peace Theories. Hun Sen’s Thought and Vison for Cambodia, edited by Suos, Yara, Siphana Sok and Kimly Ngoun, Universal Peace Federation.

Speeches and remarks of Samdech Techo Hun Sen accessed online in the “Cambodia New Vision” website.

World Investment Interviews (W.I.N., 2005). Interview with H.E. Samdech Hun Sen.

Owen, Taylor and Kiernan, Ben. (2006). Bombs Over Cambodia - Genocide Studies Program. History. The Walrus, pp. 63-69.



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