Prime Minister Hun Sen shared Cambodia’s lessons on peacemaking and national reconciliation at the World Summit in Seoul, marking the end of a four-day trip to South Korea where he clinches a peace prize.
He opined that it is not more conflict – but rather, peaceful dialogue and a ‘Win-Win’ negotiation – that can open up the possibility of ending war, in a nod to his own policy which saw Khmer Rouge soldiers reintegrated into the Kingdom’s society.
In his opening remarks to the summit on February 11, Hun Sen said: “In more than half of my life, I've seen negotiation as the best option. I've never believed that war can end war.
“Our country has been torn apart by war and we had spent four years negotiating an end to that war.”
Hun Sen was awarded the 2022 Sunhak Peace Prize on February 12. He said the prize was for all Cambodians for their continuous support of the Kingdom’s peacebuilding process.
He thanked the prize committee for acknowledging his efforts in ending the civil war and building a “comprehensive, lasting peace” in Cambodia. He also expressed deep gratitude to the monarchy, in particular the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and King Norodom Sihamoni for their roles in promoting the spirit of national unity among all Cambodians.
“For me, peace is priceless. Peace is the most beautiful thing; peace brings hope and smiles to [all of] humankind,” he said.
He added that he was committed to protecting and promoting peace after having seen Cambodia's experiences of war and peacemaking.
Hun Sen took the opportunity to highlight the Kingdom’s outsized contributions to UN peacekeeping and mine clearance missions in Africa and the Middle East, where it has sent troops despite being a relatively small country with limited military resources.
“No peace, no hope! No peace, no development! No peace, no human rights and democracy,” he said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a press statement on February 13 that in awarding him the prize, the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee has recognised Hun Sen’s lifetime efforts and achievements in ending the decades-long civil war and establishing peace in Cambodia.
“His visionary leadership as Prime Minister has steered Cambodia towards poverty alleviation, enhancement of people’s wellbeing, and uplifting of socio-economic development in Cambodia,” it said.
The ministry added that his contributions to wider peace in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond are also being recognised by being awarded the prize.
During his four-day visit to South Korea, Hun Sen met with high profile leaders including South Korean President Moon Jae-in; Speaker of the Korean National Assembly Park Byeong-seug; co-founder of the Universal Peace Federation Hak Ja Han Moon; and former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
In a meeting with President Moon, Hun Sen thanked South Korea for taking good care of Cambodian laborers and students – especially in providing Covid-19 vaccines – and for keeping air travel between the two countries open during the pandemic so as to sustain business relations, tourism and cultural exchange.
Hun Sen also used their meeting to request that South Korea increase its Cambodian migrant worker quota, and continue to promote workers’ health and wellbeing as long as they remain employed there.
The two leaders also discussed multilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common concern.
Moon reiterated South Korea’s support for the ASEAN five-point consensus to help Myanmar navigate a path to stability. He also voiced his appreciation of Hun Sen for his efforts in the endeavour.
During their meeting, former UN secretary-general Ban recalled good working relations with Hun Sen during his tenure at the organisation, according to the press statement released by the foreign ministry. Ban was said to have expressed confidence in Hun Sen’s leadership in steering efforts to resolve regional issues.
“[Ban] expressed readiness in supporting Cambodia in his capacity as the former UN secretary-general and vice-chair of The Elders,” the press statement read, referring to an independent network of global leaders founded by the late South African President Nelson Mandela in 2007.