The ruling CPP added six more officials to the party’s formerly 29-member Standing Committee Sunday, many of whom are high-ranking military and law enforcement leaders, officials said, prompting opposition concerns of party politics tainting independent offices.
Bringing the number of committee members to 35, the CPP appointed six men—Finance Minister Keat Chhon, Rural Development Ministry Secretary of State Yim Chhay Ly, National Police chief Neth Savoeun, Senator Tep Ngorn, and deputy RCAF commanders-in-chief Meas Sophea and Kun Kim—during its two-day conference.
The move was done to strengthen the ruling party, CPP and Senate President Chea Sim said during a news conference. He also reiterated the party’s continued backing of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“This success is pride for our party after 30 years in power,” he said. “The CPP is a strong supporter of Prime Minister Hun Sen and he will be prime minister forever if the CPP still wins elections.”
Despite Mr Chea Sim’s contention, the CPP has, however, not had an uninterrupted streak at the head of government, having lost the 1993 election to Funcinpec.
On Sunday, opposition figures questioned the new inductees chosen by the ruling party, saying their standings within the CPP would influence their current work within the government.
Constitutional Council member Son Soubert, who is a senior member of the Human Rights Party, said having high-ranking law enforcement and judiciary officials on the party standing committee was a clear conflict of interest by tipping the scales in the CPP’s favor.
The Standing Committee of the CPP Central Committee already includes RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, Supreme Court President Dith Munthy, and Constitutional Council President Ek Sam Ol.
“It is wrong to appoint high-ranking military and police officials to the ruling party’s committee…. They have to stay neutral,” he said Sunday, adding those with conflicts should either resign from their current positions or decline to join the Standing Committee. “That’s communism, not democracy,” he said.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said the appointments would also be detrimental to the development of the nation by keeping political and governmental power consolidated in one party.
“You can have no real progress as long as things are organized that way,” he said. CPP officials “will first serve the interest of their party.”
Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker and a member of the standing committee, said incoming members apply for a position with the CPP Standing Committee, and they are readily able to keep their duties for the party separate from the positions the hold.
“It is not a problem,” he said Sunday. “When they implement the law, they have to follow their positions. When they come to the CPP, they have to follow the CPP’s internal rules.”
(Additional reporting by Rann Reuy)