Prime Minister Hun Sen’s two eldest sons were among 90 officers in the latest round of high-level promotions in the military, and the two young men look set to continue their meteoric rise through the ranks of the armed forces.
Eldest son Hun Manet was promoted to lieutenant general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) on Friday and Mr. Hun Sen’s second son, Hun Manith, was promoted to RCAF brigadier general on June 12, according to the latest edition of the Royal Gazette.
“We order that Hun Manet is promoted from the rank of major general to lieutenant general in RCAF,” the Royal Decree, signed by King Norodom Sihamoni, reads.
“We order that Hun Manith is promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general in RCAF,” the earlier Royal Decree states.
Defense Minister Tea Banh declined to comment on the latest promotions of the prime minister’s sons. Several other Defense Ministry and RCAF officials also declined to comment.
The promotions also included 16 other major generals to lieutenant generals, 38 brigadier generals to major generals and 34 colonels, including Hun Manith, to brigadier generals.
The promotions mark an exceptionally quick rise for the 35-year-old Lt. Gen. Manet, who joined the Defense Ministry in 2009. And though Mr. Hun Sen —a five-star general himself—has insisted that his eldest would never follow him into politics, analysts believe Lt. Gen. Manet is being groomed to some day follow in his father’s footsteps.
Promotions to the rank of general in the military ballooned by 60 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to the Defense Ministry, prompting a freeze on promotions among the top brass.
That freeze has since been lifted and the Defense Ministry has not shared enlistment or officer numbers recently.
The Cambodian military had more than 2,000 generals in 2010, compared to less than 500 generals for all of the armed forces in the U.S.—the largest military apparatus in the world.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the rapid growth of the Cambodian military’s officer corps began in the early 1990s with a U.N.-brokered plan to help end the country’s protracted civil war by integrating the various factions into the government’s forces.
But since then, he said, promotion has mostly become a way for the government to engender, and maintain, the military’s loyalty.
“The leaders expect that they [promoted officers] owe a debt of gratitude to them, to strengthen their loyalty to them,” he said. “The army is a force to be reckoned with and its loyalty is critical, one of the mainstays of the regime.”
As for Mr. Hun Sen’s newly promoted sons, Mr. Mong Hay said their promotions only reinforced the obvious family network at work within the military.
“It’s not surprising,” he said of their promotions.
All three of Mr. Hun Sen’s sons have received at least some U.S. military training.
The most high-profile, Lt. Gen. Manet graduated from West Point Military Academy in the U.S. in 1999. Among Lt. Gen. Manet’s other titles: deputy chair of the RCAF Joint Staff; head of the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department; head of the ministry-spanning joint counterterrorism taskforce; deputy commander of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit.
Brig. Gen. Manith, 31, is also deputy head of the powerful Military Intelligence Unit. He serves as deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution as well.
The youngest son, Hun Many, 30, heads the CPP’s all-important Voluntary Youth Movement. He is now running in Sunday’s national election for a parliamentary seat in Kompong Speu province, making him the first of the prime minister’s children to seek public office.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)