Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday marked his 35 years in power by promising that he will never hand it over to his oldest son Hun Manet but through an election.
Speaking yesterday evening during an annual meeting with local journalists in Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich exhibition centre, Mr Hun Sen said that he will not handpick Lieutenant General Manet, RCAF army commander, to succeed him.
“I need to be prime minister for another 10 years. If Manet is qualified, he will have to wait for another 10 years,” he said, noting that he will be a prime minister till 2028.
“We are a democratic country. It is not a country that we transfer power from father to son as some countries do. We have to go through the elections.”
According to Mr Hun Sen’s cabinet, he became Foreign Minister of People’s Republic of Kampuchea in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, then as deputy prime minister and Foreign Minister from 1981 to 1985.
He first took office as Prime Minister on January 14, 1985, after he was unanimously elected by the National Assembly to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984.
Mr Hun Sen became the world’s youngest Prime Minister at the time, at age 32. He also held the position as foreign minister until 1991.
He is today the world’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the longest-serving leaders in the world.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said that Mr Hun Sen has done a great job as the prime minister with countless achievements.
“Since 1985, there are many achievements under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership,” Mr Eysan said. “First, it was a national reconciliation. He held negotiations with late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in 1988 that led to the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991.”
Mr Eysan said Mr Hun Sen was credited for the win-win policy to bring the last remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers into the government’s fold in late 1998.
“We enjoyed full peace as the Khmer Rouge soldiers were reintegrated into the government in 1998,” Mr Eysan said.
“Like you see today, we have stability and development,” Mr Eysan said.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said Mr Hun Sen is one of Cambodia’s great heroes.
“He ended the war in Cambodia peacefully through his win-win policy,” Mr Phea said. “In his lifetime, Prime Minister Hun Sen has dedicated everything to the cause of the nation.”
“He has turned Cambodia, formerly known as the killing fields, into becoming a peace island and very attractive tourist destination,” he said.
However, Paul Chambers, a lecturer and special advisor for international affairs at Thailand’s Naresuan University, said yesterday that Mr Hun Sen has both achievements and challenges.
“His main achievements are defeating the Khmer Rouge and , establishing a single-party government,” Mr Chambers said.
“He has remained a strongman because he has increasingly centralised power in Cambodia and he will transfer power to his son Hun Manet when he is good and ready. There is no hurry at this point.”