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Son of Longtime Cambodian Ruler Chosen to Succeed Father as New Prime Minister

This handout from the Cambodia National Assembly taken and released on August 22, 2023 shows Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Manet delivering a speech during a parliamentary meeting at the National Assembly building. (Photo by Handout / AFP)

Cambodia’s parliament has overwhelmingly elected Hun Manet to succeed his father, longtime autocratic ruler Hun Sen, as the country’s prime minister.

The selection of the 45-year-old Hun Manet as Cambodia’s new leader comes just weeks after his father announced he would be stepping aside after nearly four decades in power, prompted by the landslide victory of his ruling Cambodian People’s Party in parliamentary elections.

The election was denounced by Western governments and human rights groups as a sham because the main opposition party was banned from taking part. Hun Manet won a parliamentary seat as a member of the CPP.

A graduate of the U.S.-based West Point Military Academy, Hun Manet has served for years in Cambodia’s military, holding various posts, such as head of counterterrorism, deputy military commander and army chief. He also holds a master’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from Bristol University in Britain, all in economics.

The generational change of power will also be reflected in Hun Manet’s Cabinet, with several members being the children or relatives of ministers who served under Hun Sen. The new ministers will include Hun Manet’s youngest brother, Hun Many, who will serve as minister of civil service.

The 71-year-old Hun Sen is a former member of Cambodia’s notorious Khmer Rouge, which has been blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million people from starvation, illness and executions during its brutal reign in the 1970s. He has gradually eliminated political opposition and independent press during his 38-year rule, while also moving Cambodia to greater economic and military ties with China during his reign.

He says he will continue to play an active role in Cambodian politics, including serving as president of the Senate and leader of the CPP.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.