Cambodia held elections last month, but the outcome was never in doubt. Prime minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won with ease, in what was widely considered a rigged contest. The only credible opposition party was dissolved last year on dubious charges.
Though there are smaller remaining parties, none pose a threat to the CPP. Cambodia is essentially a one-party state. Meanwhile Hun Sen has been grooming his sons for leadership for years, and a hereditary dictatorship looms on the nation’s horizon.
At age 66, Hun Sen is now the world’s longest-serving prime minister, having held the position for 33 years. Last November he vowed to stay in power for 10 more years, for the sake of “stability.” But sooner or later his power will be transferred to someone else.
“When the time has come, a power transfer within the family looks like a strong possibility,” said Astrid Norén-Nilsson, who teaches Southeast Asian affairs at Lund University in Sweden.
The eldest son, heir apparent Hun Manet, holds several key military posts, having enjoyed rapid promotions over the years. He’s now a lieutenant general and the deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, as well as chief of joint staff, and head of the prime minister’s bodyguard unit. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999.
The second eldest, Hun Manith, became the head of a new intelligence unit a year ago.