Prime Minister Hun Sen has officially defined the roles of the most senior officials in his cabinet, drawing out the specific areas that the government’s senior ministers and nine deputy prime ministers will be responsible for overseeing.
The duties and positions have been laid out in a Sept 25 directive signed by the prime minister.
Not surprisingly, far more duties fall to CPP deputy prime ministers and senior ministers than their Funcinpec counterparts. Many of the Funcinpec officials—all former ministers or co-ministers—have been given areas of responsibility that roughly correspond with positions they held during previous mandates.
The highest ranking deputy prime minister, according to the directive, is Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who in addition to duties concerning law enforcement and decentralization, will serve as acting prime minister in the event that Hun Sen cannot perform his duties.
As before, Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has been handed by far the most duties of any senior official. The almost mind-bogglingly long list of tasks includes overseeing the following: the Council of Ministers, the other deputy prime ministers, the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the National Petroleum Authority, the Apsara Authority, the national Unesco committee, the Council of Administrative Reform, the Council of Demobilization, the Accreditation Council, and the Council of Legal and Judicial Reform.
He will also assist the premier in responding to queries from the National Assembly and will coordinate work with the ministries of Information and Posts and Telecommunications, and oversee the secretariats of Public Works and Civil Aviation.
The only Funcinpec deputy prime minister, Nhiek Bun Chhay, was placed in charge of a committee to resolve border issues. He was also assigned to oversee the ministries of Tourism, Culture, and Religions—all of which were controlled by Funcinpec ministers for most of the last mandate.
Otherwise, the four Funcinpec officials who received senior minister posts have been given tasks that correspond to the ministries they once controlled. Former Education minister Kol Pheng will assist Hun Sen regarding education issues. Former Tourism minister Veng Sereyvuth will lead a tourism authority. Former Public Works minister Sun Chanthol will assist with public works and investment, and will also serve as a vice president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
Former Health minister Nuth Sokhom has been made head of the National AIDS Authority.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that despite such a list, there really is little purpose to having so many deputy prime ministers and senior ministers.
“In terms of the [numbers of] deputy prime ministers and senior ministers, we are the champion,” he said. “But they don’t have any clear role.”
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment, but when a similar directive was released last year, he said that it was critical to have deputy ministers who oversee other government bodies so they could determine what issues were important enough to involve Hun Sen in.