The Nation

Hun Sen's eldest son a key man in border fighting

In the latest round of armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia, one man has been frequently mentioned in the news - Major-General Hun Manet, who is the eldest son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Military sources said that Hun Manet, 33, commanded the latest fighting around the Preah Vihear temple area bordering Si Sa Ket province. According to some Thai military sources, an unconfirmed report from Cambodia said Hun Sen's son was injured during an armed clash on Sunday.Hun Sen had said earlier that his son - who was promoted to the rank of major-general in January - was involved in border strategy and negotiations with his Thai counterparts to ease the border tensions.Some observers viewed the latest border fighting as an attempt by Hun Sen to win acceptance for Hun Manet, who is chief of the Cambodian defence ministry's anti-terrorism unit and deputy commander of his father's bodyguards."Hun Sen wants to promote his son, who is a West Point graduate, to become the army commander. He sent his son to the border to wage a war," said Sondhi Limthongkul, a co-leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been staging a protest outside Government House demanding decisive government action against the Cambodians over the chronic border conflict.A security source, who requested anonymity, said Hun Manet appeared to have a strong desire to prove his worth to win acceptance from the Cambodian military following criticism over his promotion to become a two-star general in early January at a relatively young age.Hun Manet is the eldest of Hun Sen's six children. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1999 and later earned a doctorate in Economics at Britain's University of Bristol. That was a far cry from his 59-year-old father, who joined the Khmer Rouge movement as a teenager and received limited secondary education.With Hun Manet's promotion to a senior military rank, observers say it is now far less likely for a coup d'etat against his father, who has ruled Cambodia for 26 years and says he will rule until the day he dies.Many Cambodians think Hun Manet is being groomed by his father to take over the reins of power in the future. "The question is whether Hun Manet will be accepted by all the military's high-ranking officials and factions within the [ruling] Cambodian People's Party," said Son Soubert, a prominent political commentator and adviser to Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni.Hun Sen defended his son's promotion as in accordance with the rules. "He joined the army in 1994. He has been in army for 16 years, and there is promotion within the army ranks," the Cambodian leader said in a speech broadcast on national radio following his son's promotion.


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