Hun Sen Endorses Son as Next PM, Dismisses Sar Kheng’s Chances

3 min read
Hun Manet on a visit to China in February 2020. (Hun Manet’s Facebook page)

In his most clear comments about succession, Prime Minister Hun Sen said his oldest son and army commander Hun Manet would take over from him, while shooting down any chances of rumored prime ministerial hopeful and Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s ascension.

Hun Sen was speaking at an inauguration ceremony in Sihanoukville when he “declared” his support for Manet to take over and contest an election.

“I declare today to support my son to be the next prime minister but it means nothing without an election. It must be voted on,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen said if others could aspire to be prime minister, why not Manet, and that he wanted his son to be a good leader not a “thief leader.”

The comments were quickly lapped up by CPP loyalists, who sent government friendly Fresh News their endorsement of the prime minister’s succession plans, including old ally general Kun Kim, Justice Minister Keut Rith, Energy Minister Suy Sem, and military police commander Sao Sokha.

There were dozens of congratulatory messages by the afternoon on the news site, including from its owner, Lim Cheavutha.

Hun Sen also addressed the possibility of Kheng, long rumored to be an aspirant for the position. He turned to the interior minister on the dais and addressed him as “Kheng,” asking what his age was. Kheng replied that he was 70.

He said by 2028, which is two elections away, Kheng would be “78” and Hun Sen would be “77.” The comments elicited laughter from the dignitaries on the dais. He said it was “crazy, crazy, crazy” that political analysts still talked about Kheng’s potential as prime minister.

“If so, how does Kheng come to be a prime minister, for what? … I will continue to do it — won’t that be easier?” he said.

He then doubled down by saying that given Sar Kheng was older than him and in 10 years would be 80, why not just continue in the position before handing over to the younger generation of CPP members.

“[We] will leave in a set. [We] will put younger people in. [We] know how to organize it,” Hun Sen said.

“If Kheng comes to be or [Tea] Banh comes to be or [Yim] Chhay Ly comes to be, let Hun Sen do it.”

Hun Sen reiterated that he wanted to be prime minister for another 10 years, which would take him beyond the 2028 election.

The prime minister made other comments, such as plans to produce the Sinovac vaccine in Cambodia, that the Myanmar foriegn minister would visit Cambodia next week and that he was considering a visit to the junta-controlled country.

“I am thinking whether we should keep Asean 9 or Asean 10, because in the recent Asean Summit, we have only nine. This is a problem. Are we willing to destroy our own house to please others?” he said. “The most important point of Asean is the consensus, and then it should be 10, not nine.”

Myanmar was not invited to a November Asean Summit that saw Cambodia take over as chair of the body, and the country was also excluded from an Asia-Europe meeting organized by Cambodia earlier this week. Asean is attempting to mediate over the military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her party’s government in February.

The prime minister also waded into the recent public spat between the Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha factions of the CNRP, after the latter asked Rainsy’s allies to not use his image and name for their politicking.

Hun Sen said he had nothing to do with their split and people were giving him too much credit by suggesting he was responsible for the rift. 

“This division is your matter and not Hun Sen’s matter. If you consider Hun Sen is so strong like this and that, then don’t do politics and you go to die together.”

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