Banlung City ‘Dictator’ Removed in Ratanakkiri

The governor of Banlung City, the capital of Ratanakkiri province, has been removed from his position after being accused of discrimination, favoritism and acting “like a dictator” while already under scrutiny over a dispute with market vendors and a ruling-party lawmaker last year.

Governor Ouk Sam Ol’s ouster was made official in a June 28 sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and published by local media on Tuesday.

Deputy provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun said on Tuesday that Mr. Sam Ol would soon be replaced by Ngin Nel, an Interior Ministry department chief, and moved to a job with the provincial government.

The decision to remove Mr. Sam Ol was based in large part on his penchant for playing favorites among city employees, such as assigning coveted work assignments to his cronies, Mr. Sam Oeun said.

“He discriminated among officials, which prevented work from going smoothly,” he said. “The Interior Ministry investigated and found that he made many mistakes. That’s why the government decided to remove him from his position.”

But Mr. Sam Oeun said the decision also stemmed from a feud with vendors at the city market last year.

In April 2015, more than 200 market vendors and nearby residents endorsed a petition protesting Mr. Sam Ol’s plans to seize land next to the market, build more stalls on the plot and charge rent. Sa Leang, a businessman who had been granted permission to develop the market before Mr. Sam Ol’s appointment, then enlisted the support of CPP lawmaker Bou Lam, who sided with the businessman and petitioners and publicly accused the city governor of land-grabbing. The Council of Ministers decided in Mr. Leang’s favor in September.

At the time, Mr. Sam Oeun said the governor’s job was safe. “We will not remove the Banlung City governor, Ouk Sam Ol, from his position because he has done nothing wrong. We will just educate him,” he told a reporter.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sam Oeun said that decision had to be reversed because of compounding complaints.

“We first decided not to remove him, but he continued to do wrong,” he said. “He has no leadership skills and he acts like a dictator and his subordinates are not happy about his actions.”

Mr. Sam Ol said he was at no point warned that his superiors were displeased with his performance and that the allegations against him were untrue.

“I don’t know what I did wrong, and the upper levels never called me to educate me about any mistakes,” he said. “I deny [the accusations] because I never discriminated among groups like the deputy provincial governor claims.”

Mr. Sam Oeun said the city governor had repeatedly been advised to shape up but refused to change his ways.

He said Mr. Sam Ol would likely end up in the provincial government’s administrative office, where he previously worked.

The incoming governor, Mr. Nel, was chief of the Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison before moving to the Interior Ministry about two years ago, he said.

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