Long-serving Cambodian leader Hun Sen hints at retirement
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly hinted on Tuesday that he intends to step down as the country’s long-serving leader when a new government is formed after general elections in July.
Hun Sen, 70, ruled Cambodia with an iron hand for 38 years, and in the last election in 2018, he vowed to remain in office for two more terms, until 2028. Since then, however, his eldest son, Hun Manet, who often speaks, succeeded him and appointed him to many distinguished and important positions.
In December 2021, he specifically stated his support for Hun Manet, Cambodia’s West Point-educated army chief, to take over his job, but only through an election.
Hun Manet, 45, holds a number of other key security posts and was already elevated in 2018 from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s 865-member Central Committee to the 37-member Standing Committee, the country’s key decision-making body. in fact, he is a member of his father’s political inner circle.
Hun Sen was a mid-ranking commander in the radical communist Khmer Rouge in the 1970s before defecting to Vietnam. When Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979, he quickly became a senior member of the new Cambodian government installed by Hanoi.
A shrewd and sometimes ruthless politician, Hun Sen maintained his power as an autocrat within a nominally democratic framework. His Cambodian People’s Party, which has a stranglehold on power, is certain to top the next polls. It won all the seats in the National Assembly in the 2018 elections after a court ordered the dissolution of the only credible opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, for allegedly plotting an illegal overthrow of the government. The courts are widely seen as political tools of the ruling party.
Speaking to villagers at a hydropower project in western Pursat province on Tuesday, Hun Sen said the time had come for a new generation to take over.
He told them a soothsayer had predicted he would die at age 93, but no one should work until the day they die, he said in comments broadcast on social media and television.
Hun Sen has described himself as the world’s longest-serving prime minister, saying that if you include his tenure as foreign minister and deputy prime minister, his national leadership career spans 44 years, “already too long.”
“Now we have found the young generation that is coming instead of us. It is better to surrender to them and just stay behind them,” he said.
Even when he resigns, Hun Sen has vowed to stand behind the new prime minister. He said the new cabinet would be strong, with veteran retired politicians like him standing by.
Hun Sen said that the new government after the election is likely to be formed in September.