Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly since 2006, voted today in Tbong Khmum. He played a crucial role in ridding the country of Pol Pot. Still, he prefers life in the shadows.
At the end of 1979, after numerous cross-border incursions by the Khmer Rouge in places like Tay Ninh, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Vietnamese, Hanoi retaliated. Its invasion unveiled to a disbelieving the world the atrocities committed by the ultra-Maoists.
The West and the Communist east were happy to vilify the man they saw as a traitor for siding with the Vietnamese. At that point in history, he could count only on the Russians. The Khmer Rouge, in contrast, had saddled-up with the Chinese and the Americans, who were brooding over their Indochinese experience and battlefield losses to Hanoi.
Such power plays failed to impress Heng Samrin, who became the leader of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea, head of state, leader of the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party, senior privy councillor to the king and ultimately president of the National Assembly.
Decades later, and Heng Samrin is still called upon to fulfill the odd duty or two for what is now the Cambodia People’s Party. His heart however, remains firmly back in the kampong – a far cry from the revolutionaries (communist or otherwise) who toppled Pol Pot and remain in power to this day.
Today, Heng Samrin is a much loved figure on the Cambodian political landscape, although his duties are often largely ceremonial and are removed from the rough and tumble of Cambodian politics.
All pictures from Koh Santepheap Daily.