Hun Sen’s legacy: Cambodia as the family business

After nearly four decades in office, Hun Sen this week steps down as Cambodia’s prime minister. The National Assembly sat for the first time Monday, one day before the new premier is set to be sworn in. On Aug. 22, he will hand power over to his eldest son, Hun Manet, who was just 8 years old when his father took charge of a communist regime embroiled in a civil war and held afloat, barely, by foreign aid.

The 71-year-old strongman prime minister is bequeathing his son a country that has changed considerably over the course of his reign. Cambodia is on track, by World Bank estimates, to reach upper-middle income status by 2030, but inequality is rampant, and poverty remains widespread.

The government Hun Manet, 45, inherits is one where it pays to have powerful parents. His incoming defense minister, Tea Seiha, is the son of his father’s long-serving defense minister, Tea Banh, who was appointed in 1989. His new interior minister, Sar Sokha, too, is taking over from his own father, Sar Kheng, who has held the top security position for 31 years.

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