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Hun Sen (; Khmer: ហ៊ុន សែន, Hŭn Sên [hɔn saen]; born 5 August 1952) is a Cambodian politician and former military commander who has served as the prime minister of Cambodia since 1985. He is the longest-serving head of government of Cambodia, and one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. He is also the president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and a member of the National Assembly for Kandal. His full honorary title is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Khmer: សម្តេចអគ្គមហាសេនាបតី តេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន; Khmer pronunciation: [sɑmdac ʔakkeamɔhaːsenaːpaɗəj tecoː hɔn saen]; meaning "Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen").
Born Hun Bunal, he changed his name to Hun Sen in 1972, two years after joining the Khmer Rouge as a soldier. He fought for the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian Civil War and was a Battalion Commander in Democratic Kampuchea until defecting in 1977 and fighting alongside Vietnamese forces in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. From 1979 to 1986 and again from 1987 to 1990, he served as Cambodia's foreign minister in the Vietnamese occupied government. At age 26, he was also the world's youngest foreign minister.
Hun Sen rose to the premiership in January 1985 when the one-party National Assembly appointed him to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984. He held the position until the 1993 UN-backed elections which resulted in a hung parliament, with opposition party FUNCINPEC winning the majority of votes. Sen refused to accept the result. After negotiations with FUNCINPEC, Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed to simultaneously serve as First and Second Prime Minister, until the coalition broke down and Sen orchestrated a coup d'état in 1997 which toppled Ranariddh. Since 1998, Hun Sen has led the CPP to consecutive and often contentious election victories, overseeing rapid economic growth and development, but also corruption, deforestation and human rights violations. In 2013, Hun Sen and the CPP were reelected with a significantly reduced majority. Allegations of voter fraud led to widespread anti-government protests. In 2018 he was elected to a sixth term in a largely unopposed poll after the dissolution of the opposition party, with the CPP winning every seat in the National Assembly. He is currently serving in his sixth term as prime minister in de facto one-party rule.
Hun Sen has been prominent in communist, Marxist–Leninist and now state capitalist and national conservative political parties, and although Khmer nationalism has been a consistent trait of all of them, he is thought to lack a core political ideology. In foreign policy, Sen has in recent years strengthened a close diplomatic and economic alliance with China, who have undertaken large scale infrastructure projects and investments in Cambodia under the Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, Sen has frequently criticized Western powers in response to their sanctions on Cambodia over human rights issues and has overseen a number of diplomatic disputes with neighboring Thailand.
He has been described as a "wily operator who destroys his political opponents" by The Sydney Morning Herald and as an authoritarian leader who has assumed highly centralized power in Cambodia and considerable personal wealth using violence and corruption, including a personal guard said to rival the country's regular army.
Hun Sen was born on August 5, 1952, in Peam Kaoh Sna, Kampong Cham as Hun Bunal (also called Hun Nal), the third of six children. His father, Hun Neang, had been a resident monk in a local Wat in Kampong Cham province before defrocking himself to join the French resistance and marry Hun Sen's mother, Dee Yon, in the 1940s. Hun Neang's paternal grandparents were wealthy landowners of Teochew Chinese heritage.
Hun Neang inherited some of his family assets, including several hectares of land, and led a relatively comfortable life until a kidnapping incident forced their family to sell off much of their assets. Hun Nal left his family at the age of 13 to attend a monastic school in Phnom Penh. At the time, he changed his name to Ritthi Sen or simply Sen; his prior given name, Nal, was often a nickname for overweight children.
Military career and entry to politics
When Lon Nol removed Norodom Sihanouk from power in 1970, Sen gave up his education to join the Khmer Rouge following Sihanouk's call to join the insurgency. Sen also claims he was inspired to fight against foreign interference when his hometown of Memot was bombed by U.S. aircraft in Operation Menu. Sen claims he had no political opinions or ideology at the time. As a soldier, he again changed his name, this time to Hun Samrach, to conceal his identity.
He changed his name to Hun Sen two years later, saying that the name Hun Samrach had been inauspicious and that he had been wounded several times during the period he had that name. Sen rapidly ascended ranks as a soldier, and fought during the fall of Phnom Penh, becoming injured and being hospitalized for some time and sustaining a permanent eye injury.
In Democratic Kampuchea, Sen served as a Battalion Commander in the Eastern Region, with authority over around 2000 men. The involvement or role of Sen in the Cambodian genocide are unclear, although he denies complicity. Human Rights Watch suggested he may have had a role in a massacre to suppress Cham Muslim unrest in September–October 1975, but Sen has denied this, claiming that he had stopped following orders from the central government by this time. Sen claims he had increasing disagreements with Khmer Rouge authorities in the administration throughout 1975–1977.
In 1977, during internal purges of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen and his battalion cadres fled to Vietnam. During the Cambodian–Vietnamese War as Vietnam prepared to invade Cambodia, Hun Sen became one of the leaders of the Vietnamese-sponsored rebel army. He was called as secret name Mai Phúc by Vietnamese leaders.
Following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Vietnamese-installed People's Republic of Kampuchea/State of Cambodia (PRK/SOC) in 1979 at age 26. The Vietnamese-appointed government appointed Sen some authority over the K5 Plan, a Khmer Rouge containment strategy that saw the mass mobilization of civilian labor in constructing barricades and land mines, although the extent of his involvement is unclear.
Hun Sen is married to Bun Rany. They have 6 children, including one adopted daughter: Kamsot (deceased), Manet, Mana, Manith, Mani and Mali. The couple also adopted a daughter (who is not named in news media sources) in 1988, but they legally disowned her in 2007 for being lesbian. In 2010, Manet was promoted Major General in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and became the Deputy Commander of the Prime Minister's Body Guard headquarters. All three of Hun Sen's sons play big roles in his government. His older brother, Hun Neng, is a former governor of Kampong Cham and currently a member of parliament.
Hun Sen is fluent in Vietnamese, in addition to his native Khmer. Hun Sen also speaks some English after beginning to learn the language in the 1990s, but usually converses in Khmer through interpreters when giving formal interviews to the English-speaking media.
Hun Sen is blind in one eye because of an injury he sustained during the fall of Phnom Penh while fighting for the Khmer Rouge.
Hun Sen is a Buddhist. He has made major donations for the renovation of numerous pagodas, including Wat Vihear Suor.