Prime Minister Hun Sen may regularly deliver hours of bombastic public oratory and rarely, if ever, allow anyone to ask questions of him.
But his youngest son, Hun Many, a rising star in the ruling CPP, has begun doing just the opposite as he builds on his fledgling political career and seeks to project a different image of the governing party that he may one day seek to lead.
Days after a lacklustre interview with Singapore-based Channel News Asia in which Many, 32, fielded pointed questions about nepotism, corruption and his own prime ministerial ambitions, the Kampong Speu lawmaker turned to social media to ask for honest criticism about his performance.
“I’d like to welcome your judgments and evaluations even more as your opinions matter to me and my learning journey,” he wrote on his official Facebook page on Monday.
“I like [sic] to request your feedback, evaluation and observation on the interview at Channel News Asia.”
The post has garnered almost 3,000 likes and more than 100 comments, most of them positive.
“The more right things you do, the more supporters you get. We like your reflective interview,” one comment reads.
“U did good but hope next time u will better contain the nervousness and put out more firm and precise stances.… Let’s change the way CPP interacts with medias [sic], at least the international ones,” another says.
Ou Ritthy, a prominent and frequently critical political blogger who responded to Many’s post with a comment praising his candour, said yesterday that he saw the interview and its aftermath as a sign that CPP leaders coming through the ranks were more open-minded.
“I don’t think the interview was very good. With some explanations he tried to protect the CPP by saying corruption is not rampant and so on, this is not true.… [But while] he tried to protect CPP, he did not attack so much on the opposition like older CPP before have always [done].
“And also his comment on Facebook is very positive, very open and very candid.… This is the first time he is open and he appreciates different comments.… He’s changing and in the last few months, I also saw his brother Hun Manet give very positive and similar comments.
“If you compare the young generation of the CPP to the old one I think they understand better and they try to please youth voters.”
Many, a graduate of universities in Australia and the US, heads the CPP-aligned Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia. He surprised many last year by becoming the first of Hun Sen’s sons to run for public office.
Some observers had believed the premier’s eldest son, Hun Manet, a graduate of the elite US military academy at West Point, was his father’s anointed successor.
Moeun Chhean Narridh, a media studies academic, said young, foreign-educated CPP elite like Many were far more media savvy than party elders and were also keenly aware of the party’s waning support among young people.
“He [Many] knows what to do, he knows how to manipulate the media, he knows how to use the media.”