PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodia’s long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen expressly declared on Thursday that he supported his eldest son, Army Commander Hun Manet, following him as the nation’s leader.
Hun Manet, 44, a West Point graduate, holds the rank of lieutenant general and holds several key military posts. In addition to being the army chief, he is also the deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, deputy commander of his father’s elite bodyguard unit, and chief of the country’s counter-terrorism unit.
Hun Sen, who held power for 36 years, has often mentioned Hun Manet as his potential successor after 2028 when he plans to step down. Two of his other sons were also considered possible successors.
At the inauguration of roads and other infrastructure projects in southern Preah Sihanouk Province, 69-year-old Hun Sen stated that Hun Manet would be best placed to succeed him if he resigns.
“Today I declare that I support my son as my successor, but he can only do this through elections,” he said. âI didn’t train him to lead a gang of thieves. To be clear, Hun Manet is one of the candidates for the office of the next Prime Minister and his father fully supports him. “
Hun Sen noted that it wasn’t that unusual for Hun Manet to take the job, pointing out that the current two former prime ministers of Japan, Shinzo Abe and Takeo Fukuda, came from politically active families.
“Why should the son of another prime minister be able to become and the son of Hun Sen not?” he said.
Hun Sen urged his son to act for the good of the nation and the people, reiterating that he should only become prime minister through elections because Cambodia practices democratic pluralism.
Hun Sen’s opponents criticized him for his autocratic behavior and for restricting the opposition.
In 2017, Cambodia’s only credible opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was disbanded by the country’s Supreme Court. The action was widely viewed as a political step to ensure that the Cambodian People’s Party of Hun Sen did not face any serious challenge in the 2018 general election. Hun Sen’s party eventually won all seats in the National Assembly.
In recent years, analysts have found it more likely that Hun Manet was being prepared to take over for his father. Hun Sen, in his position as president of the Cambodian People’s Party, published a letter last year promoting the son from vice-chairman of the party’s youth wing to chairman.
Hun Manet was promoted from the party’s 865-member Central Committee to its 37-member Standing Committee, the country’s main decision-making body, in 2018, making him a de facto member of his father’s inner political circle.