Hun Manet, recently declared the future prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has dared former opposition leader Sam Rainsy to select his own successor in the run-up to the upcoming elections.
Manet said Rainsy, former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), should have the courage and genuine political will to do so.
The challenge came after Rainsy went silent and failed to respond to Manet’s offer to wager over the validity of his degree from the US Military Academy at West Point after the self-exiled CNRP leader cast aspersions on his education.
Manet recalled that in 2019, he had challenged Rainsy to place a bet on the veracity of the arguments he was making that more or less amounted to the latter baselessly denigrating his degree from West Point.
According to Manet, who currently serves as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), Rainsy responded to the challenge within three hours, telling him he was acting childishly and not accepting the wager. Now, Manet said, he has challenged Rainsy again over similar statements without any response from Rainsy forthcoming.
Manet added that Rainsy’s silence made it clear to him that he did not dare come forward and take the bet because he would have to defend arguments that were indefensible because Rainsy knew what he was saying was “nonsense”.
“If you’re afraid to come forward and challenge me as a member of the younger generation, you should have the courage to field the youthful heirs to your ‘legacy’ to compete with me and with the CPP’s youths,” Manet said in a Facebook post on December 30.
“I think that he is old now and needs to rest but he won’t ever give up his ambitions for power and give a younger generation of leaders the chance to grow.”
Manet added that by listening to Rainsy’s interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) on December 25, Rainsy made it clear that he had many qualified young people who could be chosen as candidates to succeed him as leaders of an opposition party.
He said the fact that the opposition has not selected any successor candidates so far may be due to Rainsy’s lack of vision as he unrealistically clings to his political ambitions and dreams of becoming prime minister while stifling opportunities for younger leaders.
Manet continued that if Rainsy had the same amount of political will and courage as his father Prime Minister Hun Sen, he would surely choose a new candidate to compete with those of the CPP right about now.
In the interview with RFA, Rainsy said he had already prepared the youths of his political movement for succession, but that he did not choose a formal candidate. He distinguished between those who have political acumen and those with the skills to be able do the job better.
“I would like to say that not only within the CNRP – even in civil society organisations – there are also many young intellectuals,” he said.
Em Sovannara, a professor of political science at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on December 30 that the tit for tat between Manet and Rainsy was a personal matter and of no benefit to the nation.
However, he welcomed and supported Manet’s suggestion that Rainsy find a successor or candidates as legitimately good advice, even if it was unintentionally so because Rainsy is getting older and his political potential has waned.
“However, the opposition party should consider its options. They may be able to benefit from the model used with the ‘party primary’ election system of the US by competing within the party in a democratic way,” he said.
Sovannara added that if the political coalition and party led by Rainsy used this mechanism, it would mobilise more young people to take interest and give young leaders with potential a chance to shine which could provide them with an upper-hand over the ruling party’s model of hand-picked successors.
However, he did not know for sure about the opposition’s youth membership in terms of numbers or qualities, but he said his presumption was that the resources of an opposition party that no longer has any members in government office and is outlawed within the Kingdom was probably little match for the kind of resources and votes available for the ruling party to mobilise.