Tep Khunnal, the Khmer Rouge’s one-time ambassador to the U.N. and Pol Pot’s close aide, retired from his post as Malai district governor in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday and now hopes to resume his academic career.
Mr. Khunnal, who stayed with the Khmer Rouge until the bitter end, well after the regime’s fall from power in 1979, defected to the government in 1998 and married Pol Pot’s widow the same year.
“I am old now, so I retire,” Mr. Khunnal said yesterday. “I am 62. Usually civil servants retire at 60.”
Mr. Khunnal said he first took up the post of deputy district governor in Malai—where support for Khmer Rouge leaders still runs deep—in 2005, before stepping up to governor the next year. He credited his efforts as governor for getting local farmers to move beyond subsistence farming.
“I am happy about my time as governor of Malai district. I am happy I made farmers change their practices to make them more market oriented,” he said.
Now free of his civil service duties, Mr. Khunnal said that he hoped to start teaching at a local university again after leaving academia behind a few years ago.
The website for the University of Management and Economics in Battambang City lists Mr. Khunnal as chairman.
District police chief Sor Bun said that deputy district governor Em Sokha was appointed as Mr. Khunnal’s replacement at a ceremony presided over by provincial governor Ung Oeun yesterday morning.
“I am sorry that Excellency Tep Khunnal has stopped being the governor of Malai district, but the time has come for him to retire from the civil service,” he said.
“We have worked with each other for years, since he as been deputy of the district, and we understand each other,” he said.
The district police chief said that Mr. Khunnal would retain his position as director of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP in Malai.
Mr. Khunnal was appointed a personal adviser to Mr. Hun Sen in March.