Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen hinted strongly on Tuesday that he intends to step down as the country’s long-standing leader when a new government is formed after general elections in July.
Hun Sen, 70, has led Cambodia with an iron fist for 38 years, and during the last election in 2018 he pledged to stay in office for two more terms, until 2028. Since then, he has been much talked about as his successor by his eldest son, Hun Maneh, and appointed him to several High and important positions.
He openly declared his support in December 2021 for Hun Manneh, a West Point-trained Cambodian army chief, to take his job but only through an election.
Hun Mane, 45, holds several other key security positions and in 2018 has already been elevated from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s 865-member Central Committee to the 37-member Standing Committee, the country’s main decision-making body, making him a member. A de facto member of his father’s inner political circle.
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Hun Sen was a mid-level leader in the radical communist Khmer Rouge in the 1970s before defecting to Vietnam. When Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979, he quickly became a leading member of the new Cambodian government installed by Hanoi.
A cunning 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 sure to take the lead in the upcoming elections. It won all National Assembly seats in the 2018 elections, after the court ordered the dissolution of the only credible opposition group, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, for allegedly plotting to illegally overthrow the government. The courts are widely seen as political tools of the ruling party.
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Speaking on Tuesday to villagers at a hydroelectric project in western Pursat province, Hun Sen said it was time for a new generation to take over.
And he said, in statements broadcast on social media and television stations, he told them that a fortuneteller had predicted that he would die at the age of 93, but that no one should continue to work until the day he died.
Hun Sen has called himself the world’s longest-serving prime minister, and said that if the time he served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister is included, his career as a national leader spans 44 years, “a very long time”.
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“Now we have found the younger generation who will come to replace us. It is better that we hand them over to them and stay behind them,” he said.
Even when he steps down, Hun Sen has vowed to stand behind the new prime minister. He said the new government would be strong, with veteran retired politicians like himself standing by it.
Hun Sen said that the new government after the elections will likely be formed in September.
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