Former Funcinpec resistance deputy commander Khann Savoeun has been appointed as the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ second-in-command, a post vacated when Nhiek Bun Chhay fled into resistance last July, officials said Monday.
Defense co-ministers Tea Banh and Prince Sisowath Sirirath confirmed the appointment, saying that Khann Savoeun has received a promotion from major general (two stars) to lieutenant general (three stars).
The appointment was made by King Norodom Sihanouk earlier this month, but a formal ceremony has not been scheduled because top armed forces commanders are out of town, Prince Sirirath said.
The appointment will see Khann Savoeun jump ahead of Lieutenant General Meas Sophea, a CPP-appointee, in the RCAF command structure.
An analyst said Khann Savoeun, a former officer in the Funcinpec-aligned resistance in the 1980s, is respected by Funcinpec and CPP commanders.
Khann Savoeun was the RCAF commander of the Siem Reap town-based Military Region 4 when factional fighting broke out in Phnom Penh in July 1997 between CPP- and Funcinpec-loyal security forces. Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh was effectively ousted as first prime minister when Funcinpec troops lost the battles.
When the fighting began, Khann Savoeun fled Siem Reap town for the Thai border outpost of O’Smach, about 130 km to the north, which became the resistance base through 17 months and two government offensives.
Funcinpec spokesman Pok Than confirmed the appointment of Khann Savoeun to the post is a compromise between the parties after the CPP balked at returning Nhiek Bun Chhay to the job, as Funcinpec had requested.
Funcinpec has not decided on a job for Nhiek Bun Chhay, officials said Monday.
(Additional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)