Prime Minister Hun Sen told an audience of about 5,000 people in Kompong Cham province Thursday that his oldest son, Hun Manet, was probably born from a powerful spirit that revealed itself as a flashing light that shot out of a Banyan tree and passed over Mr. Hun Sen’s house at the very moment his son entered the world.
“Manet may be the child of the Neak Ta Anchanh Koh Thmar,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a spirit that is worshipped at an altar under a Banyan tree in Memot district’s Koh Thmar village, where Mr. Hun Sen spoke, and where his wife Bun Rany gave birth to Mr. Manet in 1978.
“When [Manet] was born, there was a bright light that flew over the roof of our house,” Mr. Hun Sen told the villagers and monks who had gathered for the inauguration of a new pagoda in Toanloung commune.
“This area was where we lived and faced many difficulties,” Mr. Hun Sen continued, explaining that the first child born to he and Ms. Bun Rany was stillborn.
During his speech, Mr. Hun Sen instructed Mr. Manet, who sat beside his father while he spoke, to mourn his late brother at the spirit house that has been built at his burial site.
“You should go and light incense sticks to pay your respect to your brother after we are done here,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“You should also visit that Banyan tree too, since you come from that tree,” he added jokingly.
Mr. Hun Sen regularly evokes the spirit world in his speeches and public appearances.
Following the cremation of late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in February, Mr. Hun Sen said that the former king’s spirit must have been watching over the ceremony, as only Mr. Hun Sen was able to light the cremation casket after four failed attempts by members of the royal family.
Independent political analyst Chea Vannath said Thursday that Mr. Hun Sen has a keen awareness of the importance of superstition in Cambodian society, particularly among the country’s elders.
“Older Cambodians still believe strongly in these kinds of beliefs and miracles, including shooting stars, which Cambodians believe signifies that a great man has been born somewhere in the world,” Ms. Vannath said.
“Politicians gear their campaigns to fit with the country’s culture and beliefs for their own gains,” she added.
Mr. Hun Sen also said yesterday that unlike his other son, Hun Many, who is running for a National Assembly seat in Kompong Speu province, Mr. Manet would not be contesting this year’s national elections, but has been appointed by the prime minister to work with Rural Development Minister Chea Sophara in developing Memot district.
Mr. Hun Sen also mentioned during his speech that he was amused by an audio clip of Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha—the president and vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party—arguing with each other over who is the real puppet of the CPP, which was recorded during the election campaigns in 2008 when the two men were campaigning for opposing opposition parties.
“In the past, they always argued with each other, but now they are friends. It was so funny, I also listened to it,” he said about the audio clip, which was released by the Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit earlier this week and has been shown on a number of government-owned and ruling party-aligned TV channels over the past two days.
Mr. Sokha, who was formerly president of the HRP before it merged with Mr. Rainsy’s SRP last year, said that he is not surprised that Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP are pulling out five-year-old recordings in an attempt to undermine the opposition.
“It’s nothing new to me, he always tries to break apart our relationship, and break apart the Cambodian people,” Mr. Sokha said.
“[Mr. Hun Sen] is out of ideas. He is scared now because people are losing faith in him,” he said.