Military Stays Silent on New Promotions of Hun Sen’s Sons

Military officials on Wednesday continued to decline to comment on the latest promotions of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sons, including eldest Hun Manet’s rise from major to lieutenant general—his latest fast-track promotion.

Mr. Manet and Hun Manith, who moved from colonel to brigadier general, were among 90 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) personnel promoted to brigadier general or higher by Royal Decree last month, continuing to swell an al­ready bloated officer corps.

RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun declined to comment after referring a reporter to the country’s laws governing the military. Lieutenant General Srey Doek, who presided over a ceremony for eight new brigadier and major generals on Tuesday, also declined to comment.

Defense Minister Tea Banh declined to comment on the matter on Tuesday.

The promotions mark an especially rapid rise through the ranks for Lt. Gen. Manet, who was a colonel in the military in 2009 and has now received three stars in the space of four years.

Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said a similar rise through the ranks would typically take eight to 10 years in Australia.

“Hun Manet is no doubt being promoted to ensure control over and loyalty to the armed forces,” he said. “The clear understanding is that the armed forces stand behind the regime, the [CPP]-dominated state led by Hun Sen.”

Mr. Thayer said such moves were not unusual in authoritarian regimes that rely on family and close personal connections to fill sensitive posts because they “lack a legal basis for legitimacy and can’t trust persons appointed by a merit-based system.”

And while analysts have picked Lt. Gen. Manet as the most likely to succeed Mr. Hun Sen when he steps down, Mr. Thayer said his younger brothers, Brig. Gen. Manith and Hun Many, the prime minister’s youngest son, could not be counted out.

All three have received U.S. military training and hold various positions of import in the government. Mr. Many, who is running in Sunday’s national election for a parliamentary seat in Kompong Speu province, would be the first of the three to follow his father into public office.

“Hun Sen has clearly advanced the careers of his three sons,” Mr. Thayer said. “Perhaps he is grooming and testing each of them to see who earns the right to succeed him.”

General Banh has in the past attributed Lt. Gen. Manet’s promotions strictly to his abilities.

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