- Hun Manet, the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, is widely tipped to succeed his father
- Educated at America’s Military Academy, he was seen as a potential ally for the US, but since returning home he has rebuilt the military with China’s help
When Cambodia’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Beijing in February, trailing behind him as he shook hands with Foreign Minister Wang Yi was his eldest son, Hun Manet.
To discerning eyes, the scene was evidence not only of Hun Sen’s strengthening ties with Beijing – the visit took place despite the widespread suspension of flights to China amid the first wave of coronavirus infections – but also of Manet’s ascendancy as his father’s preferred successor.
While other countries have sanctioned Hun Sen’s government over alleged human rights issues, labour abuses and corruption, China’s relationship with Cambodia has been going from strength to strength. And with the United States and China locked in a growing struggle for influence in Southeast Asia, much energy is being expended in trying to discern which way this apparent leader in waiting will lean: towards the West or Beijing?