Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Like father like son; Hun Sen's boy a budding politician

Like father like son; Hun Sen's boy a budding politician

Like father like son; Hun Sen's boy a budding politician

HUN SEN'S 18-year-old son Manet - now being groomed at the West Point military academy

in the United States - has got the manner of being every bit the policitian his father

is.

The second Prime Minister has made little secret that Manet has got an important

future planned ahead of him.

"You will continue when I am gone," Hun Sen told Manet recently during

a discussion about Hun Sen's backing of the rights of the villagers of Kraingyov

to demonstrate against a local newspaper. "Don't leave the people of Kraingyov,

my son."

In Manet, Hun Sen has an heir already canny in the rhetoric of politics and diplomacy,

now being further honed under the discipline of America's most presitgious military

college.

Manet talks about the necessity of having had to sacrifice a lot, in just two months,

to gain the required English, mathematic and physical skills to be accepted in West

Point.

"I was excited when I heard I had passed the [West Point] examination,"

he said, adding however that it sank in later - as it did for most of the new students

- that West Point had "strict discipline unlike any other ordinary schools."

Manet said he was learning military skills and pursuing an economics degree.

He talked - as smoothly as a politician three times his age - about his knowledge

being applied to "fill the shortages we may have to strengthen our army"

and "joining other people to rehabilitate our country."

There are only seven new forign students at West Point this year, and already 100

of the 1,100 total have dropped out of college, usually unable to cope with the disciplined

regime.

Manet has plenty of reason to stick it out. Hun Sen's advise to him was "to

try hard, to struggle in study in order to be successful... because if we are not

patient even with difficulties in study we won't be able to overcome problems in

our life."

Manet remembered calling Hun Sen "uncle" as a boy because he did not recognize

his father after years of separation following Hun Sen's escape from the Khmer Rouge.

"This is not a painful story for my family alone. People throughout the country

suffered from that also."

Manet deftly dodged questions about the US army ("perhaps I can not answer fairly

because we only see a small part of it in the school...") and was diplomatic

about life in the States. "The living standard was high," he said, "but

the US also has some problems in their economy... I've seen on TV people discussing

a lot about the budget and there are some differences among them."

Similarly about the future reforms in the Cambodian army, Manet said that talking

about it now "may cause improprieties in the future when we have a deeper experience..."

When asked about any message he might like to pass on to other Cambodians, Manet's

reply was right out of his father's own book. "In my opinion, no-one was born

smarter than the other. Being smart or not depends on us spending energy and our

mind in order to make the best of ourselves. If we want to achive something, it's

not just having it in our heart, we must struggle to reach our goal.

"Struggle alone is not enough unless we realize what we're struggling for, step-by-step

toward our goals."

When asked whether he looked up to his father's example, Manet said he would do his

best to serve his country. "When I arrived in America and glanced back to our

country, it was so painful. For our country to see cultural and economic progress,

all the people must work together..."

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