Beyond the Mekong

Assessing Cambodia’s New Political Leadership

Recent Features

Beyond the Mekong | Politics | Southeast Asia

Assessing Cambodia’s New Political Leadership

A conversation with Bradley Murg.

Assessing Cambodia’s New Political Leadership
Credit: Luke Hunt

Cambodian autocrat Hun Sen completed a “generational” transfer of power this morning after the ruling party approved his eldest son Hun Manet as prime minister and a new government was sworn in by the National Assembly.

The vote came one month after the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secured government by winning 120 of the 125 seats at a national election, derided as “rigged” in the West and by human rights groups, following the disqualification of the opposition Candlelight Party.

Generational change will also see the children of many senior cabinet ministers taking over their fathers’ portfolios, ensconcing Hun Sen’s power structure and his ruling elites for years to come.

The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt talks with academic Bradley Murg, an affiliate fellow with Pacific Forum, about the implications of Hun Manet’s rise to the top job in a country where the economy is struggling and perceptions matter.

Cambodia’s image has been tarnished by the one-sided elections, allegations of corruption, human trafficking, and its role as China’s chief ally in ASEAN – a region divided by maritime disputes in the South China Sea. 

China’s economy is also in dreadful shape and a much-touted post-pandemic return of Beijing-backed investors has so far failed to materialize, an important factor amid government projections that Cambodia will leave the ranks of Least Developed Countries by 2027.

These are issues that Hun Manet will have to weigh up for a country in dire need of foreign investment dollars and a reboot of its once lucrative tourism industry.