Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son and deputy military commander will be the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s next prime ministerial candidate when his father decides to relinquish power, the party decided on Friday, according to the Information Ministry.
A CPP congress endorsed Hun Manet, who turned 44 in October, to run for the prime ministerial office in the future, the ministry said. In recent weeks, Hun Sen has stated that he will remain the prime ministerial candidate for 2023, and has hinted that a change could occur in 2025 or 2028.
“The candidacy of H.E. Lt. Gen. Hun Manet for the future post of Prime Minister was endorsed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) during the 43rd Meeting of the CPP’s 5th mandate Central Committee at the party’s headquarters this morning,” the ministry said.
The CPP youth committee congratulated Manet for “receiving the trust to be future prime minister.”
“Sincere congratulations to His Excellency Hun Manet, a member of the central committee and chairman of the central youth committee of the Cambodian’s People Party, on the occasion of his excellency receiving the trust to be the future prime minister,” it said in a social media post.
The congress was attended by the party’s 865-strong central committee, which was expanded after Hun Sen was elevated as party president in 2015, following the death of former president Chea Sim.
Suos Yara, a CPP spokesperson, said 775 members of the committee were present, while others were absent for health reasons or were deceased. He said the vote for Manet was done by raising hands.
“They raised their hand in unanimous support because the main reason is that each one already knows the qualifications and achievements of [Hun Manet],” said Yara.
He said there was no other candidate put forward to represent the party because it was more important to have a consensus candidate to ensure the stability of the party.
“We want to show that the CPP has internal unity and strong solidarity with each other because of the challenges with the enemy and interference in geopolitics by the superpower, and to keep peace and stability is much bigger than internal competition,” Yara said.
Manet did not address the congress, Yara said, but Hun Sen told party members to maintain peace and security in the country and to prepare for the upcoming commune election in 2022.
The Information Ministry also reported that the party selected two new vice presidents: Defense Minister Tea Banh and Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An. They join existing vice presidents Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
Hun Sen in early December made a surprise announcement backing his eldest son to take over as prime minister, and even proposed creating a cabinet-in-waiting that would replace all the senior members of the Council of Ministers, and usher in a new generation of CPP leaders.
Another CPP spokesperson, Sok Eysan, said there was a cabinet-in-waiting on paper but there was a process to announce it as and when needed in the future.
Congratulatory messages have flooded government-friendly Fresh News after the Hun Manet announcement, with government officials taking the chance to support Manet’s ascension.
Labor Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour this morning lauded the selection of Hun Sen’s son online, posting a song that called Manet “perfection” and a “candidate who has virtue and is very knowledgeable.”
“His Excellency Hun Manet is very truly suitable for prime minister of Cambodia in the future, and people wait for him and want the father’s diamond. We will vote for him,” the song says.
The CPP youth committee was also quick to post a music video titled “The Sun Rises Up” on Friday morning that praised Hun Sen and how his economy had reached “perfection.”
“The dark period has already vanished and the sun rises up to light up the sky. And Hun Sen’s economy has reached perfection and shines, and helps the nation to protect and defend its territory,” says the song, set to traditional Khmer music.
Updated at 5:40 p.m. with comments from CPP spokespersons.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Suos Yara as saying the vice presidential vote was done by confidential balloting.