A day after its opening session and still devoid of the 55 lawmakers-elect of the opposition CNRP, the country’s new, one-party National Assembly voted Prime Minister Hun Sen in for yet another five-year term Tuesday and approved an extensive reshuffle of his Cabinet.
In a single, unanimously approved “package vote,” the 68 CPP lawmakers also restored Heng Samrin, 79, to the post of Assembly president, created a brand new Ministry of Public Function and created 13 new positions for ministers delegated to the prime minister.
Back in his old role, Mr. Samrin welcomed his CPP colleagues, old and new, back to their posts.
“The names of the president and vice presidents of the National Assembly, and the names of the technical committee members of the National Assembly, and the names of the members of government of the fifth mandate of the National Assembly were approved by the National Assembly by 68 of 68 voices on Tuesday, September 24, 2013,” Mr. Samrin said, referring to the number of lawmakers in his party.
After the Assembly’s brief, second session, the new government released an official list of the prime minister’s new Cabinet, which included 10 changes of leadership at the country’s 27 ministries.
Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh was moved to Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, where the former minister, Suy Sem, is now a member of parliament. Sun Chanthol, former secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia is now Commerce Minister.
Finance Ministry Secretary of State Ouk Rabun will replace Chan Sarun as minister of agriculture. Mr. Sarun is now senior minister in charge of special missions under Mr. Hun Sen.
Finance Ministry Secretary of State Aun Porn Moniroth will replace Keat Chhon as finance minister. Mr. Chhon is now a lawmaker and deputy prime minister. Finance Ministry Secretary of State Hang Chuon Naron will replace Im Sethy as education minister. Mr. Sethy is now a lawmaker.
Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon will replace So Khun as post and telecommunications minister. Mr. Khun is now a lawmaker.
Culture and Fine Arts Ministry Secretary of State Phoeung Sakona will replace Him Chhem as minister. He too becomes a senior minister in charge of special missions under Mr. Hun Sen.
Labor Minister Vong Sauth and Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng will switch desks.
Environment Minister Mok Mareth was replaced by Say Sam Al, who headed the Assembly’s investment committee. Mr. Mareth is now a lawmaker.
Speaking with reporters later, CPP lawmaker and Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said the modest ministerial reshuffle was a response to “the people’s needs.”
“From one government to the next and each new mandate of the National Assembly, changes must occur in the government,” he said. “It means the change is done to respond to the people’s needs.”
Before the brief Assembly session adjourned, Mr. Hun Sen, who has already been in power 28 years, took to the podium to finally address the noticeable absence of the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers-elect from the proceedings.
The CNRP is boycotting the Assembly to protest the official results of the July 28 election, which it claims was fraudulently called in favor of the CPP and which it really won. From Siem Reap City, where the party’s 55 elected lawmakers went to wait-out King Norodom Sihamoni’s opening of parliament, the CNRP on Monday called the new Assembly unconstitutional.
Mr. Hun Sen rejected the claim.
“All of us here are not hostages to any group, because we have come to fulfill our duties in compliance with the Constitution,” he said.
“They said that a single-party National Assembly and our meeting was illegal, but all the doors downstairs and inside this building were not locked to prevent the members coming from another political party and attending the meeting.
“They walked out on their own,” the prime minister continued, “so does that mean we should go to Siem Reap province to join them over there? Or should we stay under the roof of the National Assembly? The Constitution states that the meeting must be held under the chairmanship of the King and that the location is Phnom Penh, except in special cases.”
Along with the election of prime minister, Assembly president and ministerial reshuffle, Tuesday’s vote also transferred the Council of Ministers’ public affairs secretariat, in charge of tracking civil service jobs and salaries, to its own, new Ministry of Public Function, to be headed by the secretariat’s own Pich Bunthin.
The Assembly also created 13 new positions for ministers delegated to the prime minister, who used to be housed within their respective ministries and will be responsible for specific sectors under Mr. Hun Sen’s direct control.
Mr. Hun Sen also has fewer, only nine, deputy prime ministers, according to the document released Tuesday.
Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol’s name was missing from the list of 11 deputy prime ministers, as was Funcinpec secretary-general Nhiek Bun Chhay, whose party failed to win any seats in July’s election and has no other government posts.
Mr. Hun Sen will preside over the first meeting of his Cabinet at his office building today.