Hun Manet’s Appointment: Consolidating Power in Cambodia

In a formal declaration of the transition of power in Cambodia, the country’s long-term ruler, Hun Sen, announced that his eldest son, Hun Manet, would succeed him as the next premier. The announcement comes just days after the controversial July election, which critics argue was undemocratic. While the appointment of Hun Manet still needs to be confirmed by parliament, it is expected to pass easily, given that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party controls the majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Hun Manet, aged 45, has been groomed for leadership for many years, having served as the commander of the Royal Cambodian Army. The handover of power was initially discussed for 2021, but Hun Sen’s resignation announcement has expedited the process. As one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, having ruled for nearly four decades, Hun Sen stated his resignation was aimed at ensuring stability in Cambodia. However, political analysts argue that despite stepping down as prime minister, he will still retain ultimate control through his leadership of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

During Hun Sen’s rule, Cambodia has witnessed an increase in authoritarianism, with the suppression and imprisonment of political opponents. The recent election, in which Hun Sen’s party won all but five seats in parliament after the main opposition was banned, was deemed neither free nor fair by the US, EU, and other Western nations. In addition, there are concerns that Hun Manet’s appointment will further consolidate power within the ruling party and limit political freedom in the country.

This transition of power raises several concerns for the future of Cambodia. Firstly, there are fears that Hun Manet’s leadership will perpetuate the authoritarian regime established by his father. The suppression of political dissent and human rights violations may continue, further stifling democracy in Cambodia. Additionally, critics argue that the appointment of the leader’s son undermines the principles of meritocracy and fair competition in politics, suggesting that power will remain consolidated within the ruling family.

Furthermore, with the ruling party dominating the National Assembly, there is a risk of reduced checks and balances on executive power. This could hinder efforts to address corruption, promote transparency, and ensure accountability within the government. With limited opposition and a lack of diverse voices in parliament, policy decision-making may be skewed and fail to represent the diverse interests of the Cambodian population.

Moreover, the perceived lack of democratic processes, as highlighted by the controversial election, may lead to increased international isolation and strained diplomatic relations. Many Western nations have criticized the election process and questioned its legitimacy. This could result in economic and political consequences, including reduced foreign aid and trade partnerships, which may adversely affect the development and growth of Cambodia.

In conclusion, Hun Manet’s appointment as the next premier of Cambodia marks a formal transition of power from his father, Hun Sen, who has ruled for almost four decades. However, concerns arise regarding the consolidation of power within the ruling party and the potential continuation of an authoritarian regime. The lack of checks and balances in the National Assembly and the exclusion of political opposition could hinder progress towards democracy, transparency, and accountability. Additionally, strained diplomatic relations due to concerns over the legitimacy of the election may have economic and political consequences for Cambodia. It remains to be seen how these issues will unfold and impact the country’s future.