Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to revamp his cabinet as three long-serving ministers agreed to give up their posts in a move that appears to be an attempt to shore up the strongman’s image before the 2018 election.
“The plan is that on April 4, there will be a vote to reshuffle the composition of the government in order to ensure the work will be more effective,” Hun Sen told students at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.
“In here, there were no bad ministers. It’s just that some ministers were appointed but acted slowly in their own positions,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that all these ministers are to be removed, but it is required so that the work will be done in a more effective manner.”
The changes come as Hun Sen gears up for what looks like tough races for the Cambodian People’s Party in 2017 commune elections and a 2018 general election.
Hun Sen and his CPP have ruled the country for 31 years, but corruption, deforestation, land grabs and other social issues have become campaign issues. Hun Sen and the CPP want to prove they can institute reforms before the elections.
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the rival Cambodia National Rescue Party, cast doubt on the moves.
“I can say, just wait and see. At least it is one step and that is better than nothing at all,” he said. “It’s better than the fact that there is no change at all.”
According to a list of proposed changes submitted to parliament, Hun Sen accepted the resignation of Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who held the post for 18 years, a government spokesman told RFA’s Khmer Service. Telecommunications Minister Prak Sokhon will succeed him, the spokesman said.
Hor Namhong resigns
While Hor Namhong, 80, loses his foreign affairs portfolio, he retains the deputy prime minister title, government spokesman Phay Siphan explained.
Hor Namhong chaired the controversial 2012 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, in which he was accused of bowing to pressure from China to scuttle a joint ASEAN communique for the first time in its 45-year history.
Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon and Im Chhun Lim, the land management minister, are also resigning.
Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol will become transport minister, replacing Tram Iv Tek, who takes the telecommunications portfolio. Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth will be named a senior minister in addition to his current post.
Changes are also afoot at the ministries of land management, agriculture, rural and religious affairs.
Im Chhun Lim, the land management minister, is being replaced by Chea Sophara, who in turn will be replaced by rural affairs minister by Ouk Rabun, the outgoing agriculture minister.
Veng Sakhon, the secretary of state at the Water Resources Ministry, will take over for Rabun at the Agriculture Ministry.
Cults and Religion Minister Min Khin will switch positions with Him Chhem, a senior minister in charge of special missions.
Im Suosdey, who headed the National Election Committee until it was overhauled last year, has been appointed as a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry.
Reported for RFA’s Khmer Service by Sereyvuth Uong and Vuthy Tha. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Brooks Boleik.