Hun Sen elected president of Cambodian Senate

Critics say the former leader must remain in politics to protect his son, now prime minister.
By RFA Khmer
Hun Sen elected president of Cambodian Senate Senator Hun Sen (C) casts his vote for the president of the Senate during the first meeting of the Senate in Phnom Penh April 3, 2024.
Cambodia Senate / AFP

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen was unanimously approved to become president of Cambodia’s Senate in a move that critics said was meant to protect his son and current prime minister, Hun Manet.

The Senate also approved two senior Hun Sen aides, ex-Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and ex-Secretary of State Ouch Borith, to be his vice presidents. As head of the Senate, Hun Sen will be acting head of state when King Norodom Sihamoni is out of the country, meaning that father and son are head of government and de-facto head of state.

The 71-year-old former strongman led the country from 1985 until last year, when he stepped down to make way for his son to assume the role. Supporters of democracy have criticized the passage of power from father to son, saying it amounts to dynastic rule. 

In Wednesday’s session all 62 Senators, including those of the opposition, approved Hun Sen as their president, a Senate statement said.

In theory, the Senate is meant to act as a check on the National Assembly, but in practice in Cambodia – where the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, is so dominant – it is essentially a rubber stamp body.

The king presided over the first session of the Senate and asked the Senate to protect the national interest, and Hun Sen during the session thanked the Senate and people for their support.

Former Cambodian leader and current Senate president Hun Sen poses with the Cambodian Senate April 3, 2024. (Hun Sen via Facebook)

“The overwhelming support has reiterated people's confidence in the CPP which is the only party to guarantee peace, stability and development,” he said.  “As the Senate president, I am committed to lead the Senate to actively work with the national assembly and the government to fulfill their mandates responsibly to serve the country and its people.”

Political Commentator Kim Sok said Hun Sen is getting older and should retire, but has to remain active in government to protect his son. 

“He isn’t working to serve the country but to ensure that his son can stay in power,” he said, adding that the former strongman still wields a lot of influence.

He doubted that Hun Sen could improve democracy and unite the country.

“He robbed the voters’ will. He can’t do that,” said Kim Sok. “To serve the national interests, (Hun Sen) needs to talk to (opposition leaders) Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha to resolve (their conflict) for the sake of the national interest.” he said.

The two opposition leaders together founded the now banned Cambodia National Rescue Party. Sam Rainsy lives in self-imposed exile in France, while Kem Sokha is under house arrest as he appeals a 27-year treason sentence that rights organizations say is politically motivated.

Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


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