Phnom Penh - The eldest son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was made a major general in the country's armed forces, local media reported Tuesday, fuelling beliefs that the strongman is grooming a potential successor.
Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than a quarter-century, joined the Khmer Rouge movement as a teenager and received limited secondary education. His 33-year-old son, Hun Manet, by contrast, is a 1999 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point who later earned a doctorate in economics at Britain's University of Bristol.
He received his promotion at a ceremony Monday in Phnom Penh presided over by Defence Minister Tea Banh, who reportedly touted Hun Manet's West Point education in conferring the honour.
'This school is recognized internationally for its distinction in political science, law and military affairs, and in his new position, Manet must use the skills he has learned,' Tea Banh was quoted as saying by the Phnom Penh Post.
Hun Sen, 58, said last year that he plans to serve as premier for perhaps 15 more years and has claimed that he does not want his son to get involved in politics.
Observers said, however, that Hun Manet's rapid rise through Cambodia's military ranks is evidence of the premier's ambitions for his son.
'This is, again, part of the prime minister's attempt to consolidate power in politics,' said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, a non-governmental organization that promotes democracy. 'This is the way leadership and consolidating power in Cambodia works.'