Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly announced his support for his eldest son, Hun Manet, as his potential successor as prime minister. He claimed the announcement came in response to critics who have long accused him of paving the way for his son to take over as Cambodia’s next leader.
Hun Sen had previously mentioned Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Porn Moniroth as one potential candidate for future prime minister. Despite this, critics continued to believe that Hun Manet remained the prime candidate for his father’s successor, since he has been continuously promoted within Cambodia’s armed forces, including his appointment as commander of the Royal Cambodian Army in 2018. Manet is also deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and head of the youth wing of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Hun Sen’s declaration was made during the inauguration of more than $300 million worth of newly developed infrastructure in Sihanoukville on Thursday.
In a more than two-hour-long speech filled with harsh language against critics and the dissolved opposition party, Hun Sen announced his full support for Hun Manet as the country’s next prime minister.
“I would like to announce today my support for my son [Hun Manet] to be a future prime minister via the election process,” he said. “Let me make it clear today! Hun Manet is one of the prime ministerial candidates and [I] fully support him.”
In late November, Hun Sen announced that he would continue serving as prime minister until the death of his opposition rival Sam Rainsy, who is living in exile.
Social observer Seng Sary said the announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen would be a positive sign for the country’s future political change.
“I think at least it is a good sign for other parties that want to compete for power with the CPP,” he said. “This is the clear message that Cambodia would see the leader changed via election. However, a free, fair and transparent general election must be accepted by all parties, while at the same time, the opposition group also needs to prepare its successor to compete with H.E Hun Manet.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told CamboJA that the party’s prime ministerial candidate must go through the party’s central committee, and is then secretly selected by the general assembly.
“I do not dare to say that he [Hun Manet] is the only potential candidate in the party, but I think that Samdech Hun Sen, as a father, always supports his son, which is normal,” he said. “Previously, he had also mentioned his support for his son as a candidate for prime minister, but the decision will be made depending on the party’s central committee only.”
Hun Manet, who is currently 44 years old, joined the army in 1995 and was the first Cambodian to graduate from the West Point Military Academy in the United States.
Social analyst Meas Nee said he was not surprised by the prime minister’s announcement, saying that the father-to-son succession model is normal across the world, even happening in democratic countries.
“Even though he spoke with an angry manner, he used the words ‘support the candidacy’, not ‘appoint’, so this means that he only has the right to support his son’s candidacy,” he said. However, Nee said the message of his son as potential leader will also be delivered to the party’s internal membership as well.
“This is the party’s responsibility itself, but the important thing is whether the power succession will lead the country to prosperity, the rule of law and social justice, or just serve individuals and families,” he said.