Hun Manet’s Cambodia: An Anatomy of Administrative Bloat

The transition of power from long-serving PM Hun Sen to his son has been accompanied by a significant expansion of the country’s administrative apparatus.

In late July, shortly after leading his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to a walkover election victory, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he was stepping down and handing power to his eldest son after more than 38 years at the helm. Since then, much commentary has focused on what kind of leader Hun Manet will be – in particular, whether he will govern Cambodia in a more moderate or democratic way than his father.

A hint was offered by an article that Camboja News published yesterday, which revealed something interesting about Manet’s new government. According to the report, the government has a remarkable 1,422 officials serving as secretaries or undersecretaries of state, the two ranks beneath that of minister. As the publication noted, this represents a 121.8 percent increase over the government that ruled during 2018-2023, which had only 641 officials serving in those positions.

As Camboja explained, “Many of these appointments appear to have gone to relatives of current or former ruling CPP officials and also a flurry of former opposition leaders, environmental activists, and union leaders who joined the ruling CPP in the lead-up to July elections.”

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