King Norodom Sihamoni has signed a royal decree appointing 19 senior RCAF officials as personal advisers to Prime Minister Hun Sen, bringing the total number of the premier’s advisers to more than 120.
According to the decree dated Jan 30, newly appointed RCAF Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun and Deputy Commander in Chief Meas Sophea are now advisers with a rank equal to senior minister.
Defense Ministry secretaries of state Moeung Samphan, Chay Saing Yun, Neang Phat and Phan Nguon, along with RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Ung Samkhan and RCAF Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Nhiek Huon were appointed advisers with a rank equivalent to a minister. Newly appointed navy Commander-in-Chief Tea Vinh and the other 10 appointees became advisers with the rank of secretary of state.
Pol Saroeun said he would serve Hun Sen in his new appointment and denied there would be any more major reshuffling of staff within the military.
“I am the RCAF commander in chief; I will assist him,” Pol Saroeun said Tuesday.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap defended Hun Sen’s selections, saying the prime minister needs more people to help him lead the county and that the advisers would have new and expanded roles, focusing on special projects. The appointments are the second since Hun Sen nominated 104 advisers in October 2008.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has the right to appoint advisers who have skills to assist him. It is not illegal; the law has given rights to the premier to make the appointment,” Cheam Yeap said.
He also said that the advisers with the rank of senior minister and minister would receive a stipend of more than 2 million riel, or about $500, each month, and that those holding a secretary of state rank would make 1.79 million riel, or about $448.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] knows that it does not affect the national budget,” Cheam Yeap added.
SRP President Sam Rainsy called the appointments unnecessary and a strain on resources.
“This is a political agreement to those individuals that support him. To me, the government must not appoint only one group that they like, which affects the government’s budget,” he said, adding that he doubted there would be enough work to keep the advisers busy.
“There is no work for them to do: They are buying off people,” Sam Rainsy said.
In a separate sub-decree dated Jan 22, Hun Sen removed national military police deputy commander Chhin Chanpor. That sub-decree came on the same day that military commander in chief Ke Kim Yan was ousted from his position at the top of the RCAF High Command.
Hun Sen did not explain in the sub-decree the reason behind the removal, and Chhin Chanpor could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.