The cabinet of National Assembly President Heng Samrin denied Sunday it had ordered cabinet aide Vann Deth to ask business owners in Phnom Penh for a $200 contribution to help fund Mr Samrin’s upcoming birthday celebrations.
Mr Samrin’s cabinet chief Koam Kosal issued a statement rejecting the allegations saying Mr Deth was acting on his own without support from the cabinet, and there will be a meeting today to discuss Mr Deth’s future in the cabinet.
“No one in the cabinet was ordering him to ask for voluntary contributions from businessmen. [Mr Samrin] is very upset about these [allegations],” Mr Kosal said Sunday.
“What we will do with him is to set an example for others not to follow him,” Mr Kosal said. He also warned other cabinet officials about using the official stamp of the office without authorization.
The main concern of the cabinet is that Heng Samrin’s name has been used in the wrong way and that the official stamp of the cabinet has lost credibility, Mr Kosal said.
“It hurts and spoils the National Assembly’s reputation…. I accept that this is reckless of the cabinet,” Mr Kosal added.
At least two business owners on Phnom Penh’s riverfront bar and restaurant strip were approached by a man introducing himself as an assistant to Mr Samrin asking for a voluntary contribution after showing them a brochure detailing the lawmaker’s party plans. The amount they were expected to contribute was already written in the brochure.
The three-day celebration for Mr Samrin’s 76th birthday is scheduled to start on May 24 in the lawmaker’s native Kompong Cham province and includes a Buddhist ceremony and presentation of about 50 homes, which will be donated to poor families, according to the brochure given to the business owners.
Mr Deth could not be reached for comment Sunday but alleged in an interview on May 15 that he had been ordered by Mr Kosal to ask businesses to donate $200 for poor people, which would be a part of the birthday celebrations.
The donation would help fund schools, build houses and a new irrigation system for impoverished families, Mr Deth said. But, he added, the donation was voluntary.