That Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wants to hand power to one of his progeny is hardly a new theory. At least since the late 2000s, American officials have clearly thought Hun Manet, his eldest son, was being tutored to take office. Leaked diplomatic cables reveal that, as one states in 2008, “Hun Manet was mentioned as playing an increased role” in politics, and another from 2012 says that “Hun Manet appears to be groomed to take over a la Quaddafi’s son.”
Such rumors haven’t died down since then; in October, Hun Sen added fuel to the fire when he said that his eldest son is “the possible future leader of Cambodia.” Yet it is today becoming increasingly more relevant; late last year Hun Manet was promoted to the second-highest ranking position in the military, though he now appears to operate as the de-facto head of the armed forces, and was given a seat on the ruling party’s elite Permanent Committee, its decision-making body. It is also becoming more relevant as the ruling party tightens its stranglehold over politics and as Cambodia increasingly finds itself as a proxy between saber-rattling America and China.