Hun Sen Names Date For Vote on New Cabinet

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said the National Assembly would vote on his proposed cabinet reshuffle on April 4 and that he was keeping the details under wraps until then, as his last two shakeups were leaked before he wanted them known.

“April 4 is the day for voting to change the composition of the Royal Government, which is meant to improve work efficiency,” Mr. Hun Sen said of his plan to replace a number of ministers, speaking during a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.

“Yesterday, nobody knew that I wrote and stamped and registered the number [of the letter] from home and sent it straight to the National Assembly,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen said a total of eight ministries were now in his sights, but would not specify which.

“There is no minister that is too bad, only some ministers who have been appointed to a position are a little slow, so we are changing this point,” he said.

“And there are some ministers who knew about the prime minister’s plans to change the Council of Ministers and submitted letters to resign. And some others offered to resign to take other jobs, such as a position at the Constitutional ouncil.”

Mr. Hun Sen had warned of cabinet changes, if not the full extent of the reshuffle.

Last month, the prime minister said he had been considering a shakeup, singling out the ministers of transportation and agriculture for what he characterized as their sluggish work performance, giving them a grade of F for “very slow.”

Eang Sophalleth, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture and a personal assistant to Mr. Hun Sen, declined to comment on the cabinet changes.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long also declined to name the ministers. He said Assembly President Heng Samrin had agreed to put the proposals on the agenda of the legislative body’s permanent committee, which has the task of scheduling bills for a vote, but said a date had not been officially set.

The CPP has majority control of both the permanent committee and National Assembly, allowing it to schedule and pass legislation as it pleases.

The last time Mr. Hun Sen overhauled his cabinet was just after the national elections in 2013, when the ruling party nearly lost to the CNRP. At the time, the ministers of agriculture, finance, commerce, education, culture, environment and telecommunications were all replaced.

In his speech at the graduation ceremony on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen also announced the retirement of four provincial governors who had reached the official retirement age of 60. Interior Ministry officials said earlier this month that seven provincial governors would step down by the beginning of 2017.

Mr. Hun Sen said some of the governors might be qualified to take on cabinet roles, but not vice versa.

“Some can perform the job of minister, but it’s not certain [ministers] can do the job of provincial governors, because provincial governors take the lead in all sectors except diplomacy,” he said.

The prime minister also sought to assure defectors from the CPP’s former coalition partner, Funcinpec, that they would not lose their government jobs—just so long as they did not join the CNRP.

Last month, Funcinpec’s second vice president, Nhek Bun Chhay, after losing a yearslong power struggle with Prince Norodom Ranariddh for control of the royalist party, announced the launch of his own party, threatening to take Funcinpec members and offices with him.

“Now the prime minister of this government makes it clear that any individual who either stays with the prince or joins Nhek Bun Chhay will keep their positions,” Mr. Hun Sen said on Thursday.

“But if they join the opposition party they will be fired within 24 hours.”

Tum Sambo, who has joined Mr. Bun Chhay at the Khmer National United Party, said the prime minister’s announcement followed a letter Prince Ranariddh wrote to Mr. Hun Sen asking that more than 130 former Funcinpec members be fired.

“I can say I’m happy and support the premier’s decision,” said Mr. Sambo, who serves as an adviser to the Ministry of Defense. “I’m the one the prince wanted to fire first.”

Funcinpec’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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