Long Dimanche, the spokesman for Phnom Penh City Hall and son of a secretary of state in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, has been appointed to replace Suth Dina, the disgraced former ambassador to South Korea.
Mr. Dina was imprisoned last week on corruption charges, with the Anti-Corruption Unit claiming he had amassed $3 million over the past three years and committed crimes including pocketing compensation meant for the families of dead migrant workers.
Mr. Dimanche, 36, is the son of Long Visalo, one of the most powerful officials in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Currently the City Hall spokesman and the deputy chief of administration, Mr. Dimanche graduated with a master’s degree in international studies from a French university in 2004 and has since worked in the municipal government, initially as an assistant to former governor Kep Chuktema.
He joins a number of CPP progeny who have rapidly climbed the government’s ranks as the ruling party seemingly seeks to strike a balance between its pledges to reform and its entrenched power structure.
Mr. Dimanche said on Sunday that while his father had been a mentor, he was not responsible for the promotion.
“My father educated me a lot to serve the people and connect with society,” he said. “Through my experience with City Hall, I served the local people, resolved the problems faced by residents and managed administrative systems.”
He said he had received news of the job through a personal call from Prime Minister Hun Sen last week.
“Samdech Techo understands that I can do this job. It’s not related to my relatives or my father,” Mr. Dimanche said.
“I need to be careful because this is a new place for me. However, I have some experience involving international relations: I have studied theory, [and] I have experience with administration, especially in public relations with society,” he said.
His predecessor’s two years as Cambodia’s top envoy to South Korea were fraught with claims of abuse of office, including a warning from former Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong over nepotism. The opposition also blasted Mr. Dina for using the embassy for CPP functions and threatening migrant workers who joined opposition CNRP rallies.
Mr. Dina, who cut his political teeth as a student activist and government critic, joined the CPP in 2009 and was named an undersecretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. He became the ambassador to South Korea in 2014.
Mr. Dimanche said he would have to study the situation carefully before entering the political fray.
“This is a new political battlefield for me, so I need time to study, research and resolve the issues,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry could not be reached on Sunday but defended the appointment of Mr. Dimanche in an interview with the online Fresh News service.
“The selection of Mr. Long Dimanche as royal ambassador to South Korea is based on his qualifications and not based on his family relationships or any other reason,” Mr. Sounry is quoted as saying, adding that his work for City Hall had prepared him for the job.