We journeyed to Phnom Penh last week, June 4-8, where we conferred with Prime Minister Hun Sen on a major conference in the Cambodian capital scheduled for November and where we noted significant economic gains for the country.
We were accompanied in our visit by senior officers of the Seoul- and New York-based Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a global network of individuals and organizations dedicated to advancing the cause of peace through cooperation and dialogue. We serve as chairman emeritus of the UPF.
Among those in our group were Dr. Chung Sik-yong of South Korea, chairman for Asia of the UPF; Hon. EkNathDhakal of Nepal, former minister for peace and reconstruction and chairman for Asia of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), who is married to a Filipina, BlessieGadon from Zamboanga City; Dr. Robert Kittel of the USA, Director for youth education of the UPF; Ursula McLackland of Germany, secretary-general of UPF Asia; and Dr. Julius Malicdem of the Philippines, who hails from my province of Pangasinan, newly designated chairman for Southeast Asia of the UPF. Dr.HakJa Han Moon, active widow of UPF founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and UPF International President Dr. Thomas Walsh were attending another conference in South Africa.
Our group was received by Premier Hun Sen at the sprawling Peace Palace, where he receives foreign dignitaries and where important international events, like the East Asia Summit 2012 attended by then US President Barrack Obama, are held.
It is worth mentioning that the 6th General Assembly of ICAPP, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, in December, 2010, was held in this magnificent edifice.
Our UPF group and Prime Minister Hun Senhave decided to hold the UPF Asia Pacific Summit 2019 in Phnom Penh, November 18-20, to be co-hosted by Cambodia. The prime minister even graciously offered the Peace Palace to be the venue of the conference.
The scheduled summit in Phnom Penh aims to foster close partnership between government and civil society in addressing the critical challenges besetting the Asian region and the global community, such as peace and security, development, good governance, climate change, and poverty.
We also took the opportunity to invite him to the UPF World Summit to be held in Seoul in February, 2020, and to the 20th founding anniversary and 11th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in Manila in November 2020.
ICAPP, which we founded and launched in Manila in September, 2000, now represents some 350 ruling, opposition, and independent political parties in 52 countries in Asia.
After our meeting with the UPF group, Premier Hun Sen, an old friend, ushered us into his private office where we exchanged views with him, one-on-one, on the various issues and developments in Asia and the global community.
We found him with profound understanding of global affairs, in the light of his wealth of experience as head of government for almost 34 years and, earlier, as foreign minister for ten years, and having fought and helped defeat the barbarous Khmer Rouge with then much-adored King Norodom Sihanouk and his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who was then concurrently a general in the Royal Army.
Both Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh later became unique co-premiers of Cambodia after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge, and later, following his visit to Manila, Prince Ranariddh became speaker of the House of Representatives which led to the passage of critical economic reconstruction laws and advance of agriculture, following the ravages of war.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is credited for bringing about peace, reconciliation, unity, and development in Cambodia, which suffered from decades of armed conflict and from the atrocious Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime which murdered more than two million Cambodians.
He helped liberate Cambodia from the genocidal Khmer Rouge rule led by Pol Pot and played a pivotal role in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which brokered peace in Cambodia. Hun Sen enjoys close working and personal relations with the royal family.
We believe the royal families of Cambodia, Japan, and Thailand are and have been exemplars in the global community as with the royal family in the United Kingdom and the others less publicized in Europe.
In the course of our Phnom Penh visit, we also met with our young and dynamic friend Suos Yara, a member of the National Assembly (Parliament) and special adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He is a lieutenant general in the Cambodian Armed Forces.
Suos Yara also serves as spokesman and vice chairman for international Relations of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). He is knowledgeable in world politics and speaks fluent French.
He and former South Korean Ambassador to Russia Park Ro-byug, the respected and hardworking secretary general of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), of which we are founding chairman and chairman of Standing Committee, worked very hard in establishing and launching in Siem Reap in January this year the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), a subsidiary group under ICAPP. Suos Yara and Ambassador Park journeyed to Paris and successfully secured a working partnership between the ACC and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Suos Yara serves as director general of the ACC Secretariat based in Phnom Penh.
We also met with the bright and charming woman leader Khuon Sudary, deputy speaker of the National Assembly and vice chairperson of the ICAPP Standing Committee. She concurrently holds other positions in the subsidiary groups of ICAPP — chairperson of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC)and vice chairperson of the Asia Europe Political Forum (AEPF).
We visited as well our old friends Tan Sri Datuk Chen Lipkeong, a Malaysian-Chinese who is based in Phnom Penh and who is one of the leading business tycoons in Asia, whose businesses include hotels, gaming, and entertainment in Malaysia, Cambodia, and Far Eastern Russia, and oil exploration and development in Canada; and Mrs. Annie Sok, wife of our late dear friend Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, who also served as vice chairman of the ICAPP Standing Committee and chairman of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. Annie keeps the memory and legacy of her beloved Sok An alive by maintaining his memorabilia in their lovely home in Phnom Penh and contributes to charity and women movements.
We wanted to meet with our old friend Prince Norodom Ranariddh but we were informed that, on his doctors’ advice, he could not accept visitors yet as he is still recuperating from a major vehicular accident a few months ago which killed his wife. When he is fully recovered, we will invite him again to Pangasinan, where as crown prince with Princess Marie, he had impressed the people with his oratory and simple humility.
As we said, Prince Ranariddh was prime minister from 1993 to 1997, with Hun Sen as co-prime minister, and subsequently as president of the National Assembly from 1998 to 2006. He is the second son of the late great and legendary King Norodom Sihanouk and brother of the current young King, Norodom Sihamoni.
A day before we flew back to Manila, we and our able Assistant AldwinRequejo from Albay were invited by Senator Mong Reththy to his 16,500-hectare palm oil and 10,000-hectare mango plantations in Sihanoukville province, a three-hour drive from Phnom Penh and one-hour drive to Sihanoukville, a coastal city and capital of Sihanoukville province.
He gifted us with six hybrid mango trees with each tree bearing unique three varieties of mango. We will proudly and gladly plant the trees in our frontyard and backyard in our home in Dagupan City on Lingayen Gulf by the South China Sea. If they flourish, we would like to share these hybrids with other mango growers. n