After nearly four decades as Cambodia’s strongman leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Wednesday that he will step down in a matter of weeks to make way for his successor and son, Hun Manet, the country’s army chief.
Hun Sen, 70, announced his departure during a news conference in Phnom Penh, marking the start of a close to a 38-year premiership that made him Asia’s longest ruling leader. Hun Sen, who said he will remain head of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, was once a mid-ranking commander in the totalitarian Khmer Rouge, but defected to Vietnam midway through its four-year reign. He was installed as foreign minister following the Vietnamese army’s invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, becoming Prime Minister in 1985.
In December 2021, Hun Sen made it known that Hun Manet was to succeed him and the CPP backed his endorsement. The official news of this step-back comes days after the CPP reported a landslide victory in sham elections that have been criticized by the U.S. as “neither free nor fair” after the main opposition party was prevented from participating.