Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday rejected what he claimed were rumors that his eldest son, Hun Manet, was not really his son, but was in fact the child of his wife and a Vietnamese communist official who was then raised by Cabinet Minister Sok An.
Speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he had sacrificed a lot to bring stability to the country, develop its infrastructure and reduce inequality, but that people on social media seemed to only discuss scurrilous rumors.
“It’s the biggest disappointment that now people have posted on Facebook that Hun Manet is not Hun Sen’s son, suggesting DNA testing,” Mr. Hun Sen said, saying that the rumors were getting out of control.
“Now it’s reaching the point that…my wife was a wife of a Vietnamese leader, and then had Hun Manet, and took him to Sok An to raise him,” Mr. Hun Sen said. Mr. An is a close ally of the premier.
“I did not expect that the opposition could do a cheap act like this,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the rumors, adding that his approach to the CNRP would be: “If you don’t let me live in peace, I won’t let you live in peace.”
“Send a message to the opposition party: If you want to play, I will play along with you.”
The CNRP on Thursday released a statement denying that it was the source of the rumors.
“The CNRP denies any accusation that the CNRP was the fabricator of the news the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen was a ‘son of a Vietnamese communist,’” the opposition party’s statement said.
Lieutenant General Manet was the first Cambodian to study at West Point in the U.S., Mr. Hun Sen pointed out, and he has since become head of the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department.
Some have accused Lt. Gen. Manet of rising through the ranks of the military so quickly because of his father, but Mr. Hun Sen said on Thursday he was proud of how far his son had come after being conceived amid the misery of the Khmer Rouge in 1978.
“Brothers, sisters and the Cambodian people, Hun Manet is my poor son,” Mr. Hun Sen said, before recounting an idea his son had sent him during Lt. Gen. Manet’s controversial recent visit to the U.S.
Mr. Hun Sen said Lt. Gen. Manet suggested that the premier should dare the CNRP to place a bet on a DNA test: If Lt. Gen. Manet was his biological son, the CNRP would have to quit politics, while the ruling CPP would have to quit if the DNA test did not match.
Yet Mr. Hun Sen said that even though he understood his son’s pain, the issue of Lt. Gen. Manet’s paternity was not one that either son or father should worry about.
“I replied: Don’t care about them,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Hun Manet is the most patient kid among other children, but he couldn’t bear this scorn.”
Accusations of Vietnamese heritage are a dime a dozen in Cambodian politics, with Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan last month accusing opposition leader Sam Rainsy of falsely claiming to be angered by illegal Vietnamese border incursions.
“He wants to seem against the Vietnamese, but in fact his mother is Vietnamese. We have no mothers who are Vietnamese, and we will not give land to Vietnam,” the spokesman said on April 14.
Mr. Rainsy replied that it would not matter if his mother were Vietnamese and accused Mr. Siphan of being a racist for thinking it counted as an insult.
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