Late CPP President Chea Sim’s personal bodyguard unit will be disbanded following the cremation of his body on Friday and its members returned to their former police departments and military brigades, officials said Monday.
Chea Sim died on June 8 and was replaced as the president of the Senate the next day, with a special congress of the CPP to formally appoint Prime Minister Hun Sen as his replacement set for Saturday.
Uniformed soldiers continued to mill inside and around the late CPP president’s bodyguard compound on Street 19 behind Phnom Penh’s Botum Vatey pagoda Monday, but CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said they would soon be reassigned.
“We cannot just let them relax and get salaries, so they have to go back…and work at their units,” he said.
Mr. Eysan said there was a chance that Chea Sim’s bodyguards could find fresh employment as the protectors of new CPP leaders. “If there are any requests in the future, they will be assigned to a new [bodyguard] unit,” he said.
Touch Naruth, head of the Interior Ministry’s bodyguard unit, also suggested that members of Chea Sim’s unit could be reassigned to another leader once his body is cremated.
“It is a little bit early to ask this question, so wait until after Samdech [Chea Sim]’s cremation,” Mr. Naruth added. “We know Samdech Say Chhum has become the Senate president, but we need to wait until it is finished first because his [Chea Sim’s] bodyguard unit is busy organizing the funeral.”
Mr. Naruth said Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit was composed of both police and soldiers, but that he did not know how many members it had.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said the armed forces would competently handle the dissolution of Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit following the leader’s funeral on Friday.
“This is a military issue and they know how to do their work, and there is no need to ask this question,” General Banh said. “They know how to manage things, and there is no need for you to tell us and to ask.”
Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit pales in comparison to that assigned to protect Mr. Hun Sen, a secretive force regarded as one of the best-trained and best-equipped outfits in the country, believed to number in the thousands.