|Sok An (right) played many key roles in government and administration. Supplied|
Khmer Times/Cheang Sokha Thursday, 16 March 2017
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, one of the most senior officials in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and who recently received a royal title from King Norodom Sihamoni, died last night.
According to a government announcement, Mr. Sok An, 66, passed away in a Beijing hospital.
“The government regrets and would like to inform civil servants, armed forces and the public that Samdech Vibol Panha Sok An, a member of parliament, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, has passed away...on March 15, 2017, at 18:32,” read the statement.
Samdech Vibol Panha is the royal title bestowed by the king on Mr. Sok An on Monday.
Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Porn Moniroth will release about three billion riel (about $750,000) as ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen to pay for the funeral.
Mr. Hun Sen, who is also president of the CPP, and other senior party officials have been in Beijing for at least four or five days to be at Mr. Sok An’s side.
Because of his years-long illness, Mr. Sok An has not been seen in public for several of years and reportedly spent several months getting treatment in Singapore and France while his deputies took care of his work.
Born in Takeo’s province’s Kirivong district in 1950, Mr. Sok An was married to Ay Any, who is deputy president of the Cambodian Red Cross. Prime Minister’s wife Bun Rany Hun Sen is the president.
Mr. Sok An and Ms. Ay Any have five children. Their son Sok Puthyvuth is married to the daughter of Mr. Hun Sen and Ms. Bun Rany.
Another son, Sok Sokan, is a lawmaker with the CPP and a member for Takeo province. Mr. Sok Sokan is the head of foreign affairs and international cooperation with the Union of Youth Federation of Cambodia while another son, Sok Sangva, is deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority.
During his time in power, Mr. Sok An held many positions within the government after starting as an official in 1981. He was a secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the personal chief of the cabinet of Mr. Hun Sen.
In 1985 he was appointed ambassador to India and in 1988 he was appointed vice-minister of foreign affairs. In 1991 he was secretary-general of the Supreme National Council of the CPP and vice-minister of the interior.
From 1992 to 1998 he was a co-minister in the Office of the Council of Ministers.
From 1998 to 2004 he was promoted to senior minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers and from 2004 he was appointed deputy prime minister. From 1993 until his death he was also a member of parliament for Takeo province.
Mr. Sok An was also head of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge Task Force and he spent years negotiating with the United Nations to form the hybrid court known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia.
He was also co-chairman of the ICC Angkor, the body in charge of preserving Angkor Wat, and his latest achievement was lobbying UNESCO to get the Preah Vihear temple listed as a World Heritage Site in July 2008.
Besides the many government jobs, in his free time Mr. Sok An liked watching and betting on cockfights, one of the most popular forms of gambling in Cambodia.
According to the Council of Ministers, the Cambodian leaders who have been granted the title of “Samdech” are National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, Senate President Samdech Vibol Sena Pheakdei Say Chhum, Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen and his spouse Samdech Kittiprittbandit Bun Rany Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng, as well as some senior officials at the Royal Palace and royal family members.
Meanwhile, government official Dith Tina paid tribute to Mr. Sok An.
“I remember his participation in the Paris Peace Accord negotiations along with my dad [Dith Munty] and Hun Sen. I remember his dedication in recording the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site and also at the International Court of Justice.
“We will remember you.”