At least 80 of the 306 new members of the CPP’s expanded central committee are members of the country’s military or security forces, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday in a statement, which says the promotions are meant to secure the loyalty of security forces.
At the ruling party’s three-day congress, which ended on Sunday, the CPP announced that its central committee had been expanded from 268 to 545 members, a move that the party said was meant to breathe fresh life into the party after its worst election performance since 1993.
But HRW noted in its statement that the vast majority of the new names on the committee are veterans of the ruling party and include “virtually every important national, regional, and provincial officer and official with command authority over security forces.”
The total number of central committee members with operational command over security forces has grown from 36 to 116, the statement says, noting that such officers are required by law to maintain neutrality in their work.
“The CPP statute and Internal Rules requires that Central Committee members ‘effectively organize and implement’ party policies and decision in realms for which they are responsible,” it says. “Adhering to both Cambodian laws and CPP rules would create a conflict of interest for security force commanders.”
However, Mok Chito, a deputy national police commissioner who was among those added to the central committee, said he would not let his work for the party interfere with his work for the state.
“There is no law banning the armed forces from joining the party…just not to use working time to serve the party,” he said.
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito, whose boss Sao Sokha has been an outspoken proponent of the use of security forces to suppress the opposition CNRP, also dismissed the notion of bias among top-ranking security officers.
“For both the opposition and ruling party, when there is illegal action we will take action to stop it. For legal action, we will protect it,” he said.