Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youngest son said Wednesday that he intends to succeed his father in the authoritarian Southeast Asian country’s top office, although he did not specifically mention his plans for the next general elections in July 2018.
During the broadcast of Vayo Radio’s Political and Social Forum program, Hun Many said his ambition was to become prime minister of Cambodia.
“Becoming prime minister is my intention as well as [the intention] of other young people,” said the 33-year-old member of parliament who represents Kampong Speu province and is head of the country’s youth federation.
“The role of prime minister is not a position, but is a great honor to serve the country responsibly and to make sure to lead its direction and keep peace and maintain continued development,” he said.
In October, Hun Many was awarded the Gusi Peace Prize, given to honorees for their contributions to promoting peace and progress in society by the Manila-based Gusi Peace Prize Foundation.
Some nongovernmental organization officers who work with young people in Cambodia said it’s easy and uncomplicated for Hun Many to dream of becoming prime minister compared to other young people who might aspire to reach the nation’s top office. His father dominates all centers of power in Cambodia, a country he has run for 30 years since he was installed by then occupier Vietnam.
“For Hun Many who is the son of the prime minister, his dream … may be influential for the masses because he is in a position or in an environment that is favorable for him to achieve it,” said Cheng Sokha, director of the Youth Resource Development Program based in Phnom Penh.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), welcomed Hun Many’s comment, and said he did not consider it an obstacle for his party, but added that the 2018 elections must be conducted freely and fairly without any political threats.
The CNRP conducted a year-long boycott of parliament following disputed July 2013 general elections in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was declared the victor by the government-appointed National Election Committee (NEC) despite allegations of widespread irregularities.
Hun Many’s comment about becoming prime minister sparked discussion among other politicians and the public, who have long believed that Hun Sen, 63, has been grooming his eldest son, Hun Manet, to succeed him in office.
Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, 38, is head of Cambodia’s counterterrorism department and a graduate of the elite United States Military Academy at West Point. He has maintained a higher profile than his siblings at social and political events in and outside of the country in the recent past.
On Sept. 16, Hun Sen named his second son, 34-year-old Hun Manith, head of the country’s military intelligence department, prompting criticism from CNRP officials and political watchdogs who saw the appointment as a bid to strengthen the longtime leader’s grip on power.
The prime minister also has two daughters.
In January, Hun Sen said he would remain in power at least until the general elections in 2018, and that serving any longer would depend on the will of the people.
The political strongman, however, has previously vowed to run the country until he is 74.
Reported by Morm Moniroth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun.Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.