Cambodia's Hun Sen defends promotion of his sons to top posts

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen defended on Thursday the promotion of his three sons to senior positions in government and the military, citing their education and qualifications.

FILE PHOTO: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at the ASEM leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Two of Hun Sen’s sons are high-ranking members of the military. His youngest son is a member of parliament and chairs a parliamentary commission on youth and sport.

Hun Sen’s critics say the appointments are aimed at cementing the 66-year-old’s control over government and the economy at a time of political tension after a widely criticized election in July.

“They all have doctorate or master’s degrees. Why should they waste them? I should find work for them,” Hun Sen said, speaking at an academic award ceremony for high school students in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 parliamentary seats in the election, which the United Nations and some Western countries have said was flawed because of the lack of a credible opposition among other factors.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved late last year ahead of the election and several of its leaders were detained.

The European Union has began a formal procedure that could result in Cambodia being stripped of its special trade status over human rights concerns, in particular, those arising from the election.

Cambodia has denounced the EU pressure as an “extreme injustice”.

Two of Hun Sen’s sons were appointed to their positions after the vote, amid a government crackdown on critics, civil rights groups and independent media.

Many members of Hun Sen’s family are prominent members of Cambodia’s business community.

(This story refiles to fix grammar in paragraph six)

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by James Pearson