Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned officials about the dangers that nepotism poses for the Cambodian government, telling a closed-door meeting of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party this week that relatives should stay out of ministry affairs, sources said.
Hun Sen’s warning is unlikely to have any real impact on a Cambodian government already rife with corruption and where the prime minister himself has installed several of his relatives in positions of power.
Hun Sen’s middle son, Lt. Gen. Hun Manith, is director of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence unit. Hun Many, a member of parliament and Hun Sen’s youngest son, said he intends to succeed his father in the authoritarian Southeast Asian country’s leader.
Even within the government, it is unclear what Hun Sen meant during the January 10 meeting.
Om Yin Tieng, head of Cambodia’s official Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) told RFA’s Khmer Service that Hun Sen was discussing an issue focused only on the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
“Please be informed that this is an issue involving only the party,” he told RFA. “The jobs performed by the ACU are independent."
"I ask you not to get involved in any interference as to what was said in the meeting. Don’t make it mixed and convoluted.”
Strong laws needed
Without strong laws prohibiting nepotism, it’s unlikely that Cambodia can restrict the practice that helps foment corruption, explained Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia.
“We do not have laws that are clear on the issues of nepotism or conflicts of interest,” Preap Kol explained.
“In the past, it is the lack of such laws that made us have problems. Even in an institution like the National Assembly, such issues are still found, and they exist in almost all institutions in Cambodia.”
Preap Kol added: “There are a number of ministries and state institutions whose senior officials and their families, siblings and relatives are working together in the same place, which makes it easy for them to be corrupted secretly and systematically."
“Corruption activities ripen throughout, and it is not easy for such actions to remain hidden because those involved all get along well with each other. They help each other and share their benefits and interests among themselves.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan confirmed to RFA that Hun Sen had issued the warning during the meeting, saying the prime minister is attempting “to strengthen the solidarity and the internal unity of the ministry or any institution.”
“The prime minister clearly explained that any officials taking their wife or children to work with them would raise complicated issues, and this would draw criticism that cronyism was being practiced at the agency,” he said.
“We don’t want such cases to happen.”
Nepotism is a problem throughout Cambodia as it often shuts qualified people out of important jobs.
“It discourages intellectuals or those who went to school or who have the skills and true abilities who want to serve in that ministry, but were not given the opportunity because those jobs were grabbed by the families and the relatives of the people already there,” Preap Kol said.
“When we practice nepotism, it harms the effectiveness and quality of our work.”
Reported by Yang Chandara for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.