Cambodian PM appoints son to top-level military post

PM Hun Sen promotes his second-oldest son, Hun Manit, as head of country’s military intelligence unit

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Cambodia's defence minister has sought to defend Prime Minister Hun Sen's appointment of his son to a top post at the country's Defence Ministry, saying if anyone has an issue with the promotion, they must have "mental problems."

"It is not an act of nepotism," Gen. Tea Banh was quoted as saying in Friday's Cambodia Daily.

"He has worked there [the defense ministry] for a long time, but he was the deputy director and now he has become the director. He has been working on [espionage] and can solve all of the issues."

The promotion of Hun Manith, Sen's second son, as director of the country’s military intelligence unit was reported by the Daily and Phnom Penh Post, which cited a sub-decree signed by the premier late last month.

"Appoint Major General Manith to be the director of the department of military intelligence," Sen said.

The reshuffle was made after the former director, Chea Dara, decided to step down from the position, though he will remain as deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

Manith, who is also an RCAF major general, had been the deputy director.

The ascension is the latest in a series of appointments that have seen Hun Sen’s sons occupy powerful positions.

Ou Virak, a political analyst and founder of the Future Forum, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that Manith had been involved with the military intelligence unit "for a long time, and for obvious reasons."

"You don’t have to look far to see why it’s important," he told the Anadolu Agency on Friday afternoon.

"If anything, they are looking at the military as the ultimate security, and not just externally. That’s why the unit is quite significant in consolidating power for Hun Sen. It’s basically keeping everyone in the ruling elite afraid of what could be in the hands of intelligence. If you can get dirt on people, you can ensure loyalty."

"It’s an anti-coup mechanism," he added. "If you’re a prime minister who is paranoid of a coup and people not taking orders and need loyalty, you would control these intelligence and elite units that can conduct quick warfare."

Virak said he believes that within the CPP there could be a significant degree of discontent with the promotions of Hun Sen’s sons.

This would be particularly among the older guard, he said, those who would have had to have taken risks in the party’s earlier days only to see "your chance of promotion is limited because they will skip you and move to the next generation of the CPP elite."

Son Chhay, chief whip of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that while he could not speak on behalf of the party "We ought to be patient and wait and see."

"It’s wrong to do it, but I hope it’s not worse than what we face now," he added.