Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly indicated on Tuesday that he intends to step down as the country’s long-serving leader when a new government is installed after July’s general election.
Hun Sen, 70, has led Cambodia for 38 years, and during the last election in 2018 vowed to remain in office for two more terms until 2028. Since then, however, he has often spoken about it. His eldest son, Hun Manet, succeeded him and appointed him to several high-profile and important positions.
He formally announced his support for Cambodia’s West Point-trained army commander Hun Manet to take over his job in December 2021, but only through elections.
Hun Manet, 45, holds several other key security posts, and in 2018 was already promoted from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s 865-member Central Committee to its 37-member Standing Committee, the country’s main decision-making body I went. A de facto member of his father’s political inner circle.
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Hun Sen was a mid-ranking commander in the hardline communist Khmer Rouge before moving to Vietnam in the 1970s. 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 has maintained power as an autocrat in a nominally democratic structure. His Cambodian People’s Party, which holds power, is certain to top the next election. It won all seats in the National Assembly in the 2018 election, after a court ordered that the only credible opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, be disbanded 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 to villagers on Tuesday at a hydroelectric project in the western province of Pursat, Hun Sen said the time had come for a new generation to take power.
He told them that an astrologer had predicted he would die at age 93, but that no one should work until they die, he said in comments broadcast on his social media and television stations.
Hun Sen called himself the world’s longest-serving prime minister, and said that if he had served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister, his career as a national leader would have been 44 years. Already too long.”
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He said, “Now we’ve got the younger generation that will come to replace us. We should hand it over to them and just follow them.”
Even as he left office, Hun Sen swore that he would stand behind the new prime minister. He said the new cabinet would be strong and veteran retired politicians like him would stand by it.
Hun Sen said a new government is likely to be formed in September after the elections.
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