Categories: NewsWorld

Hun Manet: Cambodia’s new prime minister

PHNOM PENH – Hun Manet (picture) has an economics degree from England and graduated from US military academy West Point, but there are few expectations he will uphold Western liberal ideals when he succeeds his father as Cambodia’s prime minister.

Groomed for years, the eldest son of Cambodia’s iron-fisted ruler will be installed as prime minister on Tuesday by the kingdom’s parliament.

The vote completes a dynastic transfer long in the making, which sees Hun Manet move from the premier’s bodyguard unit to the seat of power.

Hun Sen last month announced his resignation, three days after claiming a landslide victory in a one-sided election that the ruling party was guaranteed to win after having silenced all viable opposition.

Hun Manet, already a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP) powerful permanent committee, has served as commander of the Royal Cambodian Army since 2018.

Born on October 20, 1977, the princeling graduated from West Point in 1999 and has more recently met world leaders including President Xi Jinping of China – Cambodia’s main ally and benefactor.

But the 45-year-old four-star general only contested a parliamentary seat for the first time in July’s election, a poll criticised internationally as neither free nor fair.

– Western education –

Hun Sen has trailed the handover to his son for a year and a half but he has also made it clear that he intends to wield influence after he steps down, scotching the notion the country could change direction when Hun Manet assumes power.

While Hun Sen’s politics are shaped by his experiences of revolution and war as a young man during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, his son was raised in luxury and educated abroad.

Married with two daughters and a son, Hun Manet holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bristol in Britain.

He was also the first Cambodian to graduate from the prestigious US military academy.

He has also served in leadership roles in the ruling CPP’s youth movement, his father’s bodyguard unit and the counterterrorism special forces.

But a Western education is no guarantee of a more liberal approach, exiled politician Sam Rainsy, a longstanding foe of Hun Sen, told AFP last month – pointing to Syria’s brutal Assad dynasty.

“Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is more educated than Hafez al-Assad, but the son is politically worse than the father,” he said.

Sebastian Strangio, author of a book about Hun Sen’s rule, told AFP last month that Hun Manet had shown “little evidence that he will introduce anything more than cosmetic reforms to the current political system”.

Without his father’s backing, it is not clear Hun Manet would be able to make changes even if he wanted to. – AFP



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