Hun Sen's legacy hinges on his 'borami'

Hun Sen's legacy hinges on his 'borami'

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chief of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, poses for a selfie with party supporters after voting in the senate election at Takhmau polling station in Kandal province, southeast of Phnom Penh, on Feb 25. (AP photo)
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chief of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, poses for a selfie with party supporters after voting in the senate election at Takhmau polling station in Kandal province, southeast of Phnom Penh, on Feb 25. (AP photo)

The Khmer phrase <i>mian borami</i> is common these days in one of the most vibrant capitals in Asean. Ask Cambodians at random in the Central Market or Monivong Boulevard (or, if you fancy, Mao Zedong or Lenin Boulevard) their feelings about Samdech Decho Hun Sen, and chances are they will answer, "Hun Sen has supernatural powers and strength". In Cambodian culture, someone with borami -- or charisma -- has earned respect, recognition and authority from years of work for their neighbourhood and service to the community. They are perceived as extraordinary individuals who have supernatural powers to change things. That is how Cambodians think of Hun Sen. At least for now.

For Hun Sen, borami has not come easily. He has spent his whole life earning it after escaping from the Khmer Rouge in July 1977. Since the last election, the region's longest-reigning prime minister, at 33 years, is working hard to ensure his legacy in history books as the modern father of Cambodia. In 2013, his Cambodia People's Party won the last election by a slim majority, which led to months of political stalemate and uncertainty. He was determined that in future elections, such a scenario would not be repeated. After all, this is not about power and wealth, the focus of the international community, it is all about how Hun Sen would be remembered by the Cambodian people -- his legacy. Indeed, his political longevity depends on his borami.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist on regional affairs.

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Kavi Chongkittavorn

A veteran journalist on regional affairs

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist on regional affairs

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