HUN Manet, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, was promoted to the rank of two-star general yesterday in a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence, a move that has stoked further speculation about the 33-year-old’s political future.
Hun Manet currently serves as director of the anti-terrorism department at the Ministry of Defence and was promoted in September to deputy commander of his father’s personal bodyguard unit.
Observers have long speculated that he is being groomed as a potential successor to Hun Sen, having been educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point and later at Bristol University in the United Kingdom.
In a speech yesterday at the ceremony, Minister of Defence Tea Banh said Hun Manet’s West Point education had prepared him to lead a new generation of military officers within the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
“This school is recognised internationally for its distinction in political science, law and military affairs, and in his new position, Manet must use the skills he has learned,” Tea Banh said.
“We have to let the younger generation take over our work and ensure that our achievements are protected and that forces of evil who want to destroy our achievements are stopped.”
Hun Manet graduated in 1999 from West Point, where his education was financed by the US government, according to The Associated Press. He was reportedly granted one of the ten spots in each class at the military academy that are reserved for foreign students, later going on to earn a PhD in economics at Bristol.
Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said yesterday that Hun Manet’s promotion provided further evidence of Hun Sen’s ambitions for his oldest son.
“This is, again, part of the prime minister’s attempt to consolidate power in politics,” Hang Chhaya said.
“This is the way leadership and consolidating power in Cambodia works.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE