Brigadier General Hun Manet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, was promoted Friday to deputy commander of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit, the autonomous military unit whose force strength is an official secret.
Brig Gen Manet maintains his position as commander of the National Counterterrorism Special Forces but has also been promoted to be deputy chairman of the RCAF joint staff, according to military officials.
Word of the promotion was briefly announced on state television over the weekend, but some senior RCAF officials said they had only been made aware of the news yesterday.
Groomed for a military career since his adolescence, Brig Gen Manet at the age of 21 graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1999 and has been the most high profile of the prime minister’s children to continue their father’s role in public service.
The promotions make Brig Gen Manet an immediate subordinate to two of Mr Hun Sen’s closest and longest-standing military associates, bodyguard unit commander General Hing Bunheang and chairman of the joint staff General Kun Kim, both of whom are RCAF deputy commanders in chief.
In a ceremony presided over by Gen Bunheang at Tuol Kraisang, the bodyguard unit’s headquarters in Takhmau City, south of Phnom Penh, Lieutenant General Nop Ratana read out the sub-decree appointing Brig Gen Manet to the new positions.
Mr Hun Sen, himself made a five-star general in December, keeps one of his two residences near the base.
Officials were reluctant to discuss Brig Gen Manet’s promotions. Defense Minister General Tea Banh said yesterday that the new positions matched Brig Gen Manet’s abilities.
“Deputy commander of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit and RCAF joint staff are appointments by sub-decree of the government,” said Gen Banh.
Since its creation in 1995, the bodyguard unit has existed outside the military chain of command and has answered directly to Mr Hun Sen, whom it protected through the partisan violence of the late 1990s.
Investigators from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation determined in 1997 that it has been involved in a military assault on an opposition rally in which 16 people were killed. However, Cambodian officials strongly denied this.
Brig Gen Manet was unavailable. However, Prince Sisowath Sirirath, former Co-Defense Minister, said yesterday he approved of the promotions.
“We need RCAF commanders who have studied overseas to lead our country,” he said.