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Cambodia’s new prime minister appoints youngest brother as his deputy

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Six months after becoming Cambodia’s new prime minister, the eldest son of the country’s long-serving autocratic leader on Wednesday won approval from lawmakers to have his youngest brother take the post of deputy premier.

The development is the latest in a generational change in top positions in the Southeast Asian nation that tightens control of Cambodia’s government by a small circle of families associated with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Last August, Hun Manet, 46, the son of longtime leader Hun Sen and Cambodia’s military chief, became the prime minister after having engaged in foreign diplomacy more and more over the past few years. His father stepped down after 38 years in power.

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Hun Manet had studied at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before serving as deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and army chief.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly overwhelmingly approved his 41-year-old brother Hun Many — Hun Sen’s third son — as deputy prime minister. All but five members of the 125-seat chamber are from the ruling party, and the 120 lawmakers who were present at Wednesday’s session voted unanimously in favor of Hun Many.

Speaking to lawmakers, Hun Manet, said his brother’s appointment was in line with his government’s policy of promoting efficiency to help Cambodia reach its goal of becoming a high-income country by 2050.

While serving as deputy prime minister, Hun Many will also retain his post as civil service minister and lawmaker.

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Middle brother Hun Manith, 42, is a three-star army general and chief of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence department.

Hun Manet’s Cabinet includes about three quarters of replacements for his father’s ministers, mostly children or relatives of those whose places they took over. Experts have cautioned against expecting broad changes Cambodia, where under Hun Sen human rights were long under attack and dissent was suppressed.

“There is not a big difference between the generations in political outlook, including in terms of how open or how competitive politics should be,” Astrid Norén-Nilsson, a Cambodia expert at Sweden’s Lund University, said after Hun Manet took power last year.

The generational handover was designed to keep the power of the political-cum-business elite intact, she added.

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