Marking sweeping change to the Cambodian military leadership, General Pol Saroeun was due to ascend this morning to the top of the RCAF high command at a ceremony to be held at the Defense Ministry, officials said Friday.
Pol Saroeun will replace General Ke Kim Yan, who, after 10 years as chief of the armed forces, was ousted Thursday at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The premier is also slated to welcome to the upper echelons of the military high command his personal bodyguard chief Hing Bunheang, military intelligence Director Mol Roeup, National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, Navy Commander Ung Samkhan and tactical department Chief Chea Dara, all of whom are now deputy commanders in chief.
Military officials contacted Friday continued to offer no explanations for the removal of Ke Kim Yan, which some believe suggests a tectonic shift in the structure of the ruling CPP, long known for exemplary discipline of both its rank and file and its senior leaders.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith on Friday warned against reading too much into the dismissal of Ke Kim Yan.
“It’s a reform of the army structure,” Khieu Kanharith said. “There is nothing beyond this.”
RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief General Kun Kim, who is to retain his position along with General Meas Sophea, also a deputy chief, said that while no future assignment for Ke Kim Yan had been announced, the former commander in chief would not end his public service career.
“He will not be idle. He will always receive another position but I do not know what the government will offer him,” Kun Kim said by telephone.
Ke Kim Yan remained unreachable Friday.
Veteran political observer Chea Vannath said Friday that she was struck by the fact that Ke Kim Yan had been “terminated,” rather than simply sidelined with a promotion to a new position.
“I saw many letters of support on television to immediately support the new replacement [Pol Saroeun],” Chea Vannath said, noting that she had not seen anything like it before.
“There is no tradition of removal of a senior official in government without giving another position,” she said.