Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Tuesday that his son, Hun Manet, will run for parliament and warned opposition parties to prepare for a future onslaught of new CPP officials who are the children of his party’s leaders.
Earlier this month, Hun Sen publicly dismissed longstanding speculation that Hun Manet, 28, was being groomed for office and that he may stand in the 2008 national election as a lawmaker for Siem Reap province.
Hun Sen said his about-face on the issue of his son’s future in politics was spurred by commentators who had accused him of abusing Hun Manet’s right by not allowing him to participate in the career of his choice.
“I said that the rumor about my son, Hun Manet…was not true,” Hun Sen told a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh. “But I didn’t anticipate that a few people would claim that Hun Sen was abusing the constitutional political rights of his own son,” he said.
“You have advised that Hun Sen should not prevent his children from participating in politics,” Hun Sen added. “I want to tell you, so that you know clearly: They will participate as a group.”
The children of other CPP officials will also stand for election one day, said Hun Sen, adding that other parties should “be careful” of the political weight of a second generation of CPP officials competing for government positions.
“You cannot compete with the fathers and you also cannot compete with the children,” he said. The CPP, Hun Sen added, is prepared to continue its reign as the country’s majority party.
“We are not so stupid that when there is a crisis, like when older people die, that there would be no leaders to replace them,” he said.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said that he welcomed the children of CPP officials joining the political fold as long as they are qualified. And, he added, the children of government officials are well educated.
“They are highly educated and will become modern thinkers who won’t destroy their national property or lead the country in the style of a dictator,” Sam Rainsy said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that family ties should not bar anyone from political life.
Entering the political system, however, should be contingent on a transparent and properly conducted candidate selection process within an individual party, he said.
Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that the growing number of family networks within Cambodian politics is a problem.
“Democracy is about more participation by the people, but if only one or two families are in power, it is difficult for people to criticize,” he said.
Following his speech, Hun Sen told the 579 graduating students that he had personally donated $20,000 to cover the costs of their graduation ceremony and their planned trip to Angkor.
“I won’t stop funding [such events] when I am the prime minister. But when I am not the prime minister I will stop,” Hun Sen told the students, adding that roads, irrigation projects and schools throughout the country will suffer if he ceases to be premier. NIE Director Em Kuch thanked Hun Sen and pledged his, the students’ and the institute’s continued support for the ruling party.