Cambodia’s longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen has backed his eldest son to succeed him, paving the way for a political dynasty.
The 69-year-old, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders after 36 years in power, has presided over a broad crackdown on the opposition, civil society and media in the country that began in the run-up to the 2018 elections.
“I announce today that I support my son to continue as prime minister,” Hun Sen said in a speech on Thursday in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.
He added that his son – Hun Manet, 44, a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and joint chief of staff – would have to face an election, which is expected to take place in 2023.
Hun Manet graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. He also has a doctorate in economics from Britain’s Bristol University.
In the speech, Hun Sen also defended the idea of establishing a political dynasty.
“Even Japan has its own dynasty, like [former Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe. His grandfather was prime minister and he had visited Cambodia. Abe’s father was a foreign minister and Abe was a prime minister,” he said.
Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since 1979, holds every seat in the 125-member legislature after the main opposition was dissolved ahead of the 2018 election, accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Cambodian authorities have arrested scores of former opposition members and rights campaigners in recent years.
Western countries and human rights groups have long condemned Hun Sen for the crackdown on opponents and critics.
In June last year, Hun Sen said the CPP would be a dominant force in politics for as long as a century, telling the opposition it should wait until the next life if it wants to take power.