Cambodia’s strongman leader Hun Sen offered a glimmer of hope to the country’s opposition yesterday - by saying he would stay in power for at least another decade.
The 60-year-old, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, responded to criticism over his tenacious hold on power by promising to step down when he is 74, a reduction from his previous vow to lead until he is 90. “I became prime minister when I was 32. So I started the post when I was young and I am not yet old. It is a long time, but there is nothing wrong with a long time,” Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast on national radio.
“I will leave power when I am 74,” he added.
Cambodia has held general elections every five years since 1993, but Hun Sen has retained power amid a cloud of accusations that his regime suppresses political freedoms and mistreats rights campaigners.
The country goes to the polls in July, but the main opposition leader Sam Rainsy is barred from standing because of a string of convictions against him and has lived in self-imposed exile in France since 2009.
Rainsy, who heads the recently-formed Cambodia National Rescue Party, has branded Hun Sen a “coward” for stopping him from running.
Hun Sen’s comments suggest the country has three more elections with him at the helm, but calculating the exact year of his departure will not be straightforward.
The idiosyncratic leader, who turns 61 in August, is 62 on his official paperwork, which he continues to use even though he says a typing error recorded his date of birth a year early and in April.