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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two of PM’s sons eye political office

Two of PM’s sons eye political office

Hun Manet attends the closing ceremony of the ASEAN
Hun Manet attends the closing ceremony of the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Phnom Penh last year. Manet, who is a two-star general, is the most high profile of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sons. Heng Chivoan

Two of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s three sons will run as lawmakers in the upcoming election, a ruling party official said yesterday.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post that the party’s permanent committee met last week to finalise a candidature list, which included the names of two of Hun Sen’s sons.

“The sons of Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] are all completely capable and have appropriate work experience,” said Yeap. Though Yeap declined to specify which two sons would be listed, several political observers predicted that Hun Manet and Hun Many – the eldest and youngest sons, respectively – would be the most likely pair.

In recent years, two-star General Manet, 35, has been increasingly involved in public events – attending ASEAN summits, inaugurating buildings and distributing donations on his father’s behalf. Thirty-year-old Many, meanwhile, who is an official in Hun Sen’s cabinet, has been progressively building up a youth portfolio. Last year, he launched a large-scale volunteer group called “Youth in the Cause of the Motherland”.

Colonel Hun Manith, 31, also holds prominent government positions: one as the deputy chief of the Defence Ministry’s Military Intelligence Unit and another as deputy secretary-general of the National General Secretariat for Land Disputes.  

All three sons received training at elite US or US-funded military institutions. Manet, who in the late 1990s was the first Cambodian to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, also holds a PhD in economics, while Many holds two master’s degrees.

Manet and Many could not be reached for comment yesterday. Manith said he was not on the candidature list, but also denied that either of his brothers were.

The premier’s sons were listed as part of a larger initiative to retire elderly members of the party who have grown unable to fulfill their obligation as lawmakers, said Yeap. In total, 30 per cent of the CPP’s current lawmakers will be retired and replaced by younger candidates.

Analysts and election monitors said it was wise for the party to address the problem of its aging membership, but urged that any steps taken to replace candidates were done so in a transparent manner.

“I think promoting youth in politics is important because all the politicians are so old. Many are in their eighties, and they lack energy. However, the problem is how to give equal opportunity to other youth [who may want] to engage in politics. I think this is very important, otherwise they open themselves up to criticisms of cronyism,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

Both he and political analyst Lao Mong Hay said they felt there was nothing inherently wrong with members of the premier’s family joining politics, noting that politics dynasties existed across the globe.

“I think it’s a good thing for these young men to enter politics and prove themselves. For them to learn the ropes,” said Mong Hay.

“It’s up to the people, whether they want to vote for them or not.”

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