Prime Minister Hun Sen added to speculation that his eldest son, Manet, is one day likely to succeed him as Cambodian leader by telling members of the Cambodian diaspora in Switzerland that “if he is elected, he can be prime minister”.
Manet, 41, has been promoted repeatedly and recently became the second most powerful person in the military after assuming the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. He is also the commander of the army’s infantry.
Manet has recently been adopting a more prominent role in the Kingdom’s political affairs, meeting regional and world leaders, while also accompanying the prime minister on high-profile trips abroad.
He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1999 before completing a PhD in Economics from the UK’s University of Bristol in 2007.
In an interview with The World on Australia’s ABC News 24 in 2015, Manet said he had never considered succeeding his father as prime minister.
In a meeting in Switzerland with 900 members of the Cambodian community in Europe on Wednesday, the prime minister responded to journalists speculating on a possible successor by saying it was possible Manet could one day run in elections.
“In the CPP, there is no power struggle and our country is democratic. I do not know the fate of my son. If he is elected, he can be prime minister. I do not want my son to be involved in politics, but we cannot ban him [from doing so]."
“There is one newspaper [that writes] about me. It says that it seems Hun Sen is pushing his eldest son to become prime minister, but at the moment there is no sign [of this]. I should tell all of you, if his father is prime minister, why would he want to vie for the position?” Hun Sen asked.
Ou Chanrath, a former court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker, said it would not be “strange” if the prime minister’s son was one day approved to stand as a prime ministerial candidate, while Manet has the right to do so as Cambodia is a democratic country.
“It is not strange if [Hun Sen] wants to train his son to become prime minister or if his son wants to become prime minister. That is his right and nothing is strange about that either."
“People have the right to get involved in politics and right to want to lead a country, but the important thing is that in a democratic society, the support of people is required,” he said.
Chanrath said it was likely that Manet would eventually find himself in top political positions.
“Surely, as a father, [Hun Sen] would want competent children in his family. I believe they will have training and support in order to continue holding power and to make sure that [Hun Sen’s] child can hold the top political position in the country,” he said.
In the 2015 interview with The World, Manet said: “Cambodia is a multiparty democracy. The Constitution dictates that we have an election every five years. So the choice … the decisions of who and when to be a leader is up to the people of Cambodia.”
Asked if he would succeed his father, Manet said it depended on the will of the Cambodian people. “The answer is: I don’t know.”
“Our father has stated many times that he doesn’t want his children to follow [him] into politics. What I’ve done in the past is purely for humanitarian basis [and not out of political ambition,” Manet said.
Asked if he would run for the position of prime minister if the Cambodian people supported him, he replied: “Not no, not yes.”