Hun Manet faces his father’s uneven economic legacy

Author: Will Brehm, University of Canberra

After Cambodia’s 1998 elections, Hun Sen declared he was ‘the only captain of the ship’, finally shedding the conflicting title of co-prime minister he shared with Prince Norodom Ranariddh for the previous five years. Fast forward a quarter century, the captain successfully orchestrated a power transfer to his son, Hun Manet.

Hun Sen has evaded mutiny, rebellion and revolt from the vying factions within his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Yet, as many commentators have pointed out this year, the captain still holds some power, leaving him and his son as perhaps best described as co-prime ministers, a historical irony worthy of remembrance.

If 2023 will be remembered for anything, it will be the political acumen that Hun Sen showed as he found new ways to broaden the meaning of Cambodian democracy to now include hereditary succession. For over 30 years, Hun Sen re-defined the meaning of democracy and human rights to suit his needs. He cosied up to political leaders of all ideological stripes to keep international pressure at bay. How he did this and to what effect will be studied for years to come by would-be authoritarians and scholars alike.

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