Hun Manet presided over a military ceremony in lieu of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday, making a speech in front of government ministers and high-ranking officials in what one analyst said was a display of his intention to eventually succeed his father.
Manet, the commander of the Cambodian army, spoke in Kandal province at the 11th anniversary of the official establishment of Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit. He talked of unnamed provocateurs planning to destroy Cambodia’s peace and stability — a common Hun Sen refrain — and appealed for unity among the country’s armed forces.
“My duty and my obligation is building up forces that are honest to the nation and its people, keep the peace and do not allow anyone to destroy [the peace],” Manet said.
“[They] attack from the outside … [they] incite corrosion, [trying] to make our forces lose their trust in the government and lose trust in their roles and obligations.”
Politicians, civil society groups and radio services both inside and outside the country were carrying out the attacks, he said, without naming any person or group.
“Your [right to] expression is one matter, but your intention — your plan — to destroy the peace and stability of the country is not allowed.”
Ruling party spokesperson Sok Eysan, who also attended the ceremony, said Manet had stood in for Hun Sen, who was originally slated to make the speech. The substitution was a routine matter as Hun Sen was busy, Eysan said, also noting that Manet was the unit’s commander.
Eysan said talk about Manet succeeding his father amounted to attempts to twist perceptions of the CPP’s decision-making.
But it was normal that younger members of the CPP would build themselves up to eventually take over from the previous generation, he said.
“The bamboo shoot always replaces the bamboo,” he said.
As for Manet’s words about “corrosion,” Eysan said it referred to “the outlawed rebel group,” a term frequently used by the ruling party for CNRP leaders living in exile overseas.
“As we have now seen, the corrosive [elements] are all getting into jail, step by step,” Eysan said.
Kim Sok, a political analyst who was jailed in 2017 and now lives in Finland where he was granted asylum, said Manet was making a statement — including to the rest of the CPP — that he would be the one to succeed his father.
Sok argued that Manet was solidifying his support in the military in case of dissent. “Mr. Manet wants to say that he will come to power through the formula of a permanent coup,” Sok said. “He is not ready to compete fairly.”
Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, said to comprise thousands of soldiers, was made an independent force in 2009, splitting it off from Brigade 70, of which it was formerly a part. Formed in 1995, the unit has been linked to assassinations and illegal logging. Manet has been a part of the unit’s command since 2010.