PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, Hun Manet, has heaped praise on his father for his role in developing Cambodia and helping to rid the country of the Khmer Rouge, calling for his position at the head of government to be protected.
Manet, who holds numerous senior positions in the military, including in Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, is thought to be a strong contender to succeed Hun Sen when he leaves office.
During a press briefing to launch a military exhibition on Thursday, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy commander-in-chief responded to the recent release of a documentary in which Hun Sen was interviewed at length, saying his father, who himself is a former Khmer Rouge commander, was central to the resistance against the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“Secondly, our achievements today includes you all standing here, and exercising freedom of the press,” he told reporters at the event. “We are here today because of the sacrifice to build the peace and it’s because of the value of peace. Before we reached this point, we had to sacrifice a lot.”
“So everyone in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, especially the new generation of the army, must remember and maintain that value, which was obtained by our leader with lots of hard work and sacrifice.”
The 90-minute documentary titled “Marching Towards National Salvation”, produced by the government’s press department, is being broadcast on state and local television networks.
It is the first television interview Hun Sen has given in many years.
The film portrays Hun Sen’s life since he left Cambodia in 1978 and sought support from Vietnam to overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party celebrated the anniversary of the victory against the Khmer Rouge on January 7. With a contentious general election scheduled for July, this year’s celebrations were bigger than ever.
The CPP has overseen a crackdown on political dissent in recent months that has seen the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, dissolved and its leader arrested.
In November, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the CPP to dissolve the CNRP and banned 118 of its officials from politics for five years. Most of the CNRP’s 55 MPs had already fled the country.
The move, which the government claimed was an independent decision of the court, drew strong criticism from abroad and has led to a schism in U.S.-Cambodia relations.
Both the United States and the European Union are thought to be considering further sanctions against Phnom Penh.
The former president of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy, wrote on Facebook that he considered the January 7 celebrations “a show by Vietnam”, who he blamed for the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
“Until now those who serve the interest of foreign aggressors continue to persecute Cambodian patriots—assassinating them or putting them in jail—in order to divide and weaken Cambodia so as to maintain our country under Vietnamese military and economic colonialism,” he said.
The CPP has accused the CNRP and the United States of conspiring to overthrow Hun Sen in a “color revolution” modeled on popular uprisings in Eastern Europe.
“The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces will condemn and not let it happen in Cambodia at all because it is said that it would break our national unity, and will destroy peace and our current development,” Manet said, referring to the alleged conspiracy.