Hun Sen plays hardball to keep his grip on Cambodia

Determined to extend his 33 years as Cambodia's strongman ruler, Prime Minister Hun Sen was not about to let an election derail what he believes is his destiny.

The 65-year-old leader had declared he intends to stay in office for 10 more years, and Sunday's general election victory by his Cambodian People's Party should get him halfway to that goal.

The walkover win was a foregone conclusion, with the government-influenced courts having dissolved the only credible opposition party last year.

In his first public appearance since the election, Hun Sen shook hands and posed for pictures Wednesday while inaugurating a new ferry service between Phnom Penh and a nearby town. Speaking to reporters, he hailed what he called his government's achievement of establishing "democracy and the process of peace."

Chalk up another success for Asia's most durable leader and the politics of guile and ruthlessness.

"Hun Sen is a born survivor," said Sebastian Strangio, author of a 2014 biography. "He has been in power now for more than half his life. He is somebody who apparently has very few hobbies. He spends most of his time in the weighing and accumulation of power."

He came from humble roots in the provinces. In the 1970s he joined Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge as it battled to seize power. He lost his left eye in the final battle for Phnom Penh in 1975. But when a series of purges put his own life at risk he fled to Vietnam, returning to help oust his former comrades in 1979.

He rose quickly. By his late....

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