Prime Minister Hun Sen of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said yesterday that he will hold power for approximately 15 more years, pledging to step down in the same age range – his mid-70s – as some of his former Vietnamese and Chinese counterparts.
Speaking to about 8,000 villagers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a Chinese-funded road in Kampong Speu province’s Chbar Mon district, the premiere responded to past comments from opposition leaders who said he should follow the example of Vietnamese and Chinese leaders who had moved aside and let their countries progress.
“Now, they are praising China and Vietnam as the countries that have only one political party but growth because of changing leadership,” said Hun Sen. “This is directed at me, therefore, I accept and I will do the same as Vietnam and China.”
Hun Sen said he will give up the top slot at roughly the same age that former Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao left their positions of power. He said the men were 76 and 74, respectively when they stepped down.
“I will be 66-years-old in 2018, and I will be 71-years-old in 2023, and therefore, you have to wait,” he said, rolling off his political resume. “I was foreign minister at the age of 27, and became deputy prime minister at 29-years-old, and became prime minister at 32.”
Hun Sen has had the top seat all to himself ever since, apart from a brief period in the 1990s when he shared it with Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a coalition government.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said in an email yesterday that the most recent stated age of retirement from Hun Sen was actually a big concession, since he’s said in the past that he could keep going until he reached 90. But it also might have something to do with his legacy.
“He must have calculated that by the end of a 10-year period he would have adequately groomed younger CPP leaders . . . leaders including his own children and son-in-law, and they would have had a good grip on power to run the country by themselves,” he said.