Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia, is a survivor. He has exploited opportunities provided by the international community to fend off all challengers for over three decades and cement his grip on power. While he has come close to dispensing completely with a legal framework, never has his flirtation with dictatorship been as alarming as it is now.

Hun Sen rose to power in Cambodia as a member of the murderous Khmer Rouge during the 1970s. Purges forced him to flee to Vietnam, and he returned with the Cambodian government installed by Hanoi after its 1979 invasion. He became prime minster in 1985 and has held that position ever since, a term in office that ranks him among the world's longest-serving leaders.

With longevity comes both personal loyalties and powerful vested interests committed to his — and their — continuation in office. Hun Sen has a heavily armed, personal bodyguard of more than 6,000 personnel and close ties to business interests that dominate the Cambodian economy and have extraordinary personal wealth.