Speaking from the Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen promised that he would preserve the name of the seaside province and the legacy of its namesake while leading a return to the age of prosperity overseen by then-head of state King Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s.
“Though the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk has passed away, his name is with us in this province and this port, and there will be no changing of these names,” Mr. Hun Sen said, two days after giving another speech in Prey Veng province where he expressed fear that his own legacy would be erased should he lose the next election.
Mr. Hun Sen warned on Monday that if the opposition won the national elections in July, they would erase his legacy by destroying the many buildings that bear his name, most of them schools, and those of fellow CPP leaders.
“I would like to declare that there will be no change to Preah Sihanouk province’s name as long as the CPP is in power. If the other party is elected, however, they might make a different decision,” he said in apparent reference to the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The name of Preah Sihanouk province was changed to Kompong Som by the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s before being changed back when Norodom Sihanouk was crowned king for the second time when Cambodia’s monarchy was re-established in 1993.
During his speech, Mr. Hun Sen also said that if it were not for the overthrow of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk at the hands of the U.S.-backed General Lon Nol in 1970, Cambodia would now be a more prosperous country than South Korea.
“If there hadn’t been a coup [against Norodom Sihanouk] and this autonomous port had continued to progress along with other sectors across the nation and we had not had a war, our country would have been more developed,” he said.
“Our population’s income would have been much higher [than South Korea’s],” he said, explaining that in the early 1970s, Cambodia’s per capita gross domestic product [GDP] was close to $200, while South Korea’s was only $62.
According to the most recent International Monetary Fund figures from 2012 and 2013, Cambodia’s per capita GDP is about $930, about 96 percent less than South Korea’s per capita GDP of about $23,100.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that Cambodia’s industrial development in the 1960s and 1970s was meant to meet domestic demand and, therefore, even without decades of war, would not have seen the sort of growth that South Korea has enjoyed over the past two decades.
“Cambodia couldn’t have developed in the way South Korea has since Cambodia chose a socialist economic model,” Mr. Mong Hay said, noting that Cambodia was propped up by members of the communist bloc after it broke relations with the U.S. in 1963.