Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted strongly to analysts who suggested that the recent promotion of his son Hun Manet to the rank of four-star General was somehow related to nepotism.

Addressing a March 22 graduation ceremony for nearly 5,000 students from the Vanda Institute, Hun Sen described his critics as “doctoral” analysts with no understanding of military matters, saying that their criticisms were an attempt to attack the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and challenge Manet’s status as a future prime ministerial candidate.

“I do not call these analysts ignorant people. I respect all of you and your PhDs, but you do not have the required expertise to voice your opinions in this [military] matter. It appears that you are merely looking for some way of levelling criticism at me personally, along with my party.

“Do you really think that your ill-thought out opinions can overthrow the CPP or our declared goal of grooming Hun Manet to run for the office of prime minister?” he asked rhetorically.

He said they had commented on several radio stations, attacking Manet – currently deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and commander of the Royal Cambodian Army – and other senior members of the RCAF.

The premier directed his messages to prominent analysts including Seng Sary, Em Sovannara and Van Bunna, saying they were obviously attempting to work together to attack and criticise Manet who, if elected, would succeed him as prime minister.

Such attacks – which he said are the tradition of the opposition – would only end up strengthening Manet’s ability to defend himself, hinting that in the future Manet may never facilitate the granting of amnesty to members of the opposition group that he considers to be traitors.

“In any case, should Manet enter politics, he will resign his commission. The current deputy commander of the army, Mao Sophan, will assume his role.

“Hun Manith will not be placed in command of the army,” he said, referring to his other son who has recently been promoted to deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Army.

The King ordered the promotion of Manet from the rank of three-star Lieutenant General to four-star General via a March 17 Royal Decree.

Hun Sen said Manet was not forewarned of the appointment, explaining that he and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh proposed the promotion.