SRP lawmaker Son Chhay has sent a formal request to Prime Minister Hun Sen seeking a halt to further appointments of government advisers, many of whom receive positions with ranks equivalent to secretaries of state or ministers.
In a letter dated Monday and signed by National Assembly President Heng Samrin on Wednesday, Son Chhay also requested that the government give the National Assembly a list of the people currently serving as advisers.
A number of recent defectors from the SRP and Funcinpec-including lawmakers-to the CPP were immediately granted adviser positions.
“I would like to inform Samdech prime minister that I have observed that the Royal Government during this mandate has been appointing businessmen, civil servants, and officials from political parties who recently defected to be government advisers…without knowing their numbers or their expertise to help manage the country,” Son Chhay’s letter read. “The government has spent too much money on their salaries,” he added.
“Some political parties have criticized the ruling party as having used its power to appoint defectors who have left for the ruling party,” the letter continues. “This is an abuse of the equal rights of other political parties because it is an illegal use of money and positions.”
Speaking by telephone Wednesday, Son Chhay said he was of the understanding that the government now had about 1,000 advisers. He added that many of these advisers have used their positions for personal gain, rather than giving useful counsel.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government needs to have many advisers for the sake of improving its performance.
“We have to have information from every corner,” he said, adding that many advisers do not actually receive a salary from the state.
Dismissing Son Chhay’s concerns as “showbiz,” Khieu Kanharith said that recent SRP defectors to the CPP were made advisers simply because they had experience that made them valuable to the government.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the government should seek consent from the National Assembly over such appointments.
“Government advisers should be those who are retired because [otherwise] it would create conflicts of interest if they have government positions,” he said.
“There are too many advisers right now,” he added.