Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied allegations that his eldest son Hun Manet recently visited Vietnam to “receive orders” or to seek support from Vietnamese leaders for his future prime ministerial candidacy.
Lieu Gen Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, was endorsed in recent months by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) as its future prime ministerial candidate after his father’s eventual retirement.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Asia-Europe University students on August 23, Hun Sen quoted commentators as saying that Manet had no reason to visit Vietnam because he did not hold the office of prime minister and was only the No3 commander of the RCAF.
“So, there is no reason for him to visit Vietnam and he must have gone there for advice,” Hun Sen quoted the unnamed analysts as saying. “I would like to tell you that Cambodia does not need to ask for support from the prime ministers of any other countries,” he said.
Hun Sen added that the prime ministerial candidate for the CPP must first have strong support not only within the party itself but also from the public who must vote for him before he becomes the prime minister. Citing the Constitution, he said the prime minister must be a member of the National Assembly (NA) from the party winning the most seats.
After becoming a member of parliament and after his party wins a majority of seats in the election, he would then be eligible to be appointed by the King to the office of prime minister to form a government.
“After forming the government, it is necessary to seek parliamentary approval for the prime minister post. The NA – representing the people – must then approve his appointment as prime minister and if it does not approve him, the royal appointment will be considered null and void,” Hun Sen explained.
The premier expressed regret that those commentators failed to discuss Manet’s visit to Japan where he met with the Japanese prime minister as part of their analysis, or the fact that Manet has already met with three Japanese prime ministers while serving in the Cambodian military. He pointed out that these analysts only bring up these criticisms when Manet meets with officials in Vietnam.
On the evening of August 22, Hun Sen posted pictures to Facebook of Manet visiting China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and most recently, Vietnam. He said he did so to help some of the analysts learn more about the way the government actually works.
He wrote that Manet was not only welcomed by the head of state of Vietnam, but also by the prime ministers of Singapore and Japan. In other countries, it was the defence minister or the deputy prime minister who welcomed him.
He said it was a common honour for dignitaries to be asked to do a ceremonial inspection or review of military forces “whenever we go to other countries or they come to our country”.
“It is unfortunate that the analysts did not take the occasion of Manet’s visit to Japan at the beginning of 2022 to provide commentary on, because he [Manet] went to many receptions and meetings at a very high level there as well.
“On the other hand, Manet has already been received by three Japanese prime ministers – Yukio Hatoyama in 2011, Shinzo Abe in 2018 and Fumio Kishida in 2022. I hope that analysts will learn and become more knowledgeable about such matters,” said Hun Sen.
During his visit to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on August 9, Manet met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said transparency can pacify critics and avoid having people voice unfounded suspicions about the government’s motives in matters of foreign relations.
“That is the reason why all big meetings usually come with accompanying press statements – to clear suspicions or correct erroneous assumptions by analysts or the public.
“The high-level meetings are held under the eyes of the public, who sometimes have different views. If there is a press statement regarding the purpose and the results of all meetings the public might take an interest in, that would help a lot,” he said, adding that using media outlets of various kinds to disseminate information on the results of leadership meetings remains an important public relations exercise for all governments.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the Kingdom is a fully independent and sovereign state, so there was no need for it to get an endorsement from any other country regarding who its political parties might support for prime ministerial candidacy. He said Manet going to Vietnam was just a normal occurrence within state-to-state relations, especially between neighbouring states.
“Cambodia is not under the care of Vietnam or any other country,” he said. “The countries that express willingness today to work with Manet in the future are just strengthening their overall relationship with Cambodia,” he said.
Phea added that Manet and the CPP only need the support of the Cambodian people by winning the national election with most seats when the time comes in order to make him a prime minister in the future.