Local journalist Chhay Sophal on Wednesday launched his Khmer-language compilation of biographies of the 36 men who have served as prime minister of Cambodia since the closing years of the French protectorate.
As the July 28 national election draws near, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday again lauded the ruling CPP for taking Cambodia from the post-Khmer Rouge era to an economic success story. Without the CPP, he said, Phnom Penh would have “become a coconut plantation.”
Speaking from Prey Veng province’s Komchay Mear district at the inauguration of two CPP-supported school buildings—named after Mr. Hun Sen and Senate President Chea Sim—the prime minister contrasted today’s Cambodia with the ruined country that emerged after January 7, 1979, when Pol Pot was toppled.
“Now we can see the completely different situation compared to the period of liberation from the Pol Pot regime in 1979,” Mr. Hun Sen said, using in his speech the Khmer word for “genocide,” a crime which has not been included in a draft law to criminalize denial of the regime’s crimes.
“As all compatriots here know, the Pol Pot genocidal regime destroyed every sector including education—schools were destroyed, teachers and students were killed,” the prime minister said.
And, in a familiar reminder of Cambodia’s darkest period, Mr. Hun Sen said that if Vietnamese-backed forces, which later formed the government, had not taken Phnom Penh, the city would still be empty of people.
“For the last 30 years, if there was no January 7, Phnom Penh would have become a coconut plantation. People would have been killed. Nobody would have survived since the regime had begun internal purges,” he said.
He said development had been a “step-by-step” process, and pointed to Cambodia’s promotion to a lower-middle income country this year.
“We are looking forward to being an upper-middle income country in 2030 and moving on to be a developed country in 2050,” he said. For Cambodia to reach upper-middle income status by 2030, gross domestic product would have to grow by more than 9.5 percent a year between now and then.
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