Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, has announced his resignation, putting an end to almost four decades of hardline rule. Having held power since 1985, Hun Sen has effectively eliminated all opposition, stifling freedom of expression and banning rival parties. His Cambodian People’s Party recently won a heavily criticized election with no meaningful opposition, paving the way for a dynastic succession to his eldest son, likened by some critics to North Korea’s leadership.
Resignation and Succession
In a special broadcast on state television, the 70-year-old leader stated that he would not continue as prime minister and will hand over power to his eldest son. The 45-year-old son had played a prominent role in campaigning for the recent election, signaling the planned dynastic succession.
The recent election saw the ruling CPP secure 82 percent of the vote, with the only serious challenger, the Candlelight Party, disqualified on a technicality in advance of the polls. Western powers, including the US and EU, have condemned the election as neither free nor fair, despite the Cambodian government hailing the high turnout as evidence of democratic progress.
Influence and Chinese Ties
Although stepping down from the position of prime minister, Hun Sen has indicated his intention to retain influence. During his leadership, Cambodia has developed close ties with Beijing, benefiting from substantial Chinese investments and infrastructure projects. However, this relationship has also led to concerns, particularly regarding a naval base redevelopment that has raised alarms in Washington.
Challenges and Criticisms
Hun Sen’s rule has been marred by allegations of environmental destruction, widespread corruption, and human rights abuses. Cambodia ranks poorly in Transparency International’s corruption perception index, standing at 150th out of 180 countries. Critics accuse the government of using the legal system to suppress opposition. It is resulting in the conviction and imprisonment of numerous politicians, activists, and union leaders.
Hun Sen’s announcement of his resignation marks the end of a hardline era in Cambodian politics. The handover of power to his eldest son has raised concerns among critics. It is about the potential continuation of his authoritarian legacy. The future of Cambodia remains uncertain as the country faces challenges related to corruption, human rights, and its relationship with China.