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Cambodia: Lawmakers elect Hun Manet as new prime minister

August 22, 2023

The vote marks the end of an almost four-decades long rule of his father, Hun Sen. Major powers will watch to see if Cambodia change direction with Hun Manet in control.

Hun Manet waves to the camera shortly before being appointed as Cambodia's new Prime Minister
Hun Manet in his speech outlined a wide range of goals for the next five years, including ensuring peace and stability and promoting economic growthImage: Heng Sinith/AP/picture alliance

Cambodia's parliament endorsed military general Hun Manet as the new prime minister, marking a historic transfer of power in the country his father ruled for almost 40 years.

Little is known about Hun Manet's vision for Cambodia, but after getting the unanimous backing of the National Assembly on Tuesday, he said "today is a historic day for Cambodia."

During elections held in July, his father, Hun Sen's party Cambodian People's Party (CPP) bagged almost all seats in the lower house but he announced resignation a few days later, paving way for his eldest son Hun Manet to take over.

What is Hun Manet's background?

Hun Manet is a graduate of the US military academy, West Point.

He quickly rose in Cambodia's military, holding various key positions. Unlike his father, who had no formal education, Manet holds advanced degrees in economics from New York University and Britain's Bristol University.

In late 2021, Hun Sen declared Hun Manet his anointed successor and he was later endorsed by the CPP as "future prime minister."

Foreign powers will be looking for clues as to whether his experiences living in Britain and the United States might lead to improvements in Cambodia's testy ties with the West.

He was a candidate in an election last month that was widely dismissed as flawed due to the absence of any meaningful opposition to CPP.

Cambodia holds sham elections

What does Cambodia's new government look like?

Hun Manet said that under his leadership, the focus will be on the economy, creating a "prosperous nation," increasing livelihoods and climate change adaptation.

His new government includes several relatives and family members of his father's allies.

Hun Sen's youngest son, Hun Many, is going to take over as the civil service minister while Hun Sen is expected to be appointed as the president of the Senate early next year and the acting head of state in absence of the ceremonial king.

The initial months of Hun Manet's government will be watched carefully by the Western powers who have called out human rights violations and diminishing democracy in the country.

mfa/lo (AFP, AP Reuters)