Sok An, one of the country’s most senior politicians, was a major powerbroker and held leading roles in a range of official bodies
Sok An, Cambodia’s most senior deputy prime minister, passed away Wednesday evening at the age of 66. Within the Cambodian government, he was second only to Prime Minister Hun Sen, under whom he served for roughly 40 years.
A government statement confirmed that Sok An died at 6:32pm Wednesday in a Beijing hospital.
“The Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia is very saddened to inform the civil servants, all kinds of the armed forces and the public that Samdech Vibol Panha Sok An, a member of the National Assembly, deputy prime minister and the minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, passed away,” the statement said.
The cause of death was not announced in the statement. Sok An, who had not been seen in public for several months, was granted the rare title of ‘Samdech’, which translates to “The Greatest’ and is held by a select few politicians, by King Norodom Sihamoni on Monday.
Sok An was head of the Council of Ministers and had extensive reach throughout government: he had been likened to “a Hindu god with 48 arms” given his involvement with bodies such as the National Petroleum Authority, Council for Demobilisation of Armed Forces and the Council for Public Administrative Reform. However, he lost some of these wide-ranging positions during a power restructure after the 2013 national elections.
Sok An began working with Hun Sen not long after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, when Hun Sen was appointed as foreign minister of the socialist government backed by Vietnam. His extensive career also included positions as chief of cabinet at the Foreign Ministry in the early 1980s, a brief stint as ambassador to India in 1985, and a role as one of the government’s chief negotiators in the peace talks that led to signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991.
In the late 1990s, he also took on the task of negotiating with the UN over the establishment of a court to put Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for genocide and other war crimes.
Sok An’s relationship with Hun Sen was underscored by the marriage of one of his sons, Sok Puthyvuth, to a daughter of the prime minister, Hun Maly.
Hun Sen, who travelled to China this week, has formed a committee headed by deputy prime minister Bin Chhin to oversee Sok An’s funeral, which will reportedly cost $750,000.