Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Tuesday statement denied that he would rearrange top posts in the army and the Defense Ministry, dispelling reports that newly appointed RCAF deputy commander-in-chief Kun Kim was to receive a promotion.
His comments came at the close of the CPP’s bi-annual congress of its central committee, where Hun Sen also mentioned the rumored changes, party members said.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen wishes to deny all information published in these newspapers, and clearly asserts General Tea Banh is still co-minister of defense and General Ke Kim Yan remains commander-in-chief,” read the statement reportedly issued by the premier’s office and confirmed by Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng.
Another adviser to Hun Sen reportedly told the biweekly Phnom Penh Post that Kun Kim—a close aide to Hun Sen for years and an ex-Khmer Rouge who defected to Vietnam in the late 1970s—would replace Ke Kim Yan.
The appointment of Kun Kim to his post in November caused a stir among human rights groups and among military officials, who questioned his experience. Formerly a deputy governor in Kompong Cham and Kandal provinces, Kun Kim had not served in the military for 20 years.
Members of the CPP, the dominant partner in the ruling coalition government, said the issue was high on Hun Sen’s list at the convention on Tuesday, where nearly 300 attended. Three party members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Hun Sen also railed his colleagues about illegal logging.
“He told us that this is the one major problem facing the country,” said one.
Also among the premier’s concerns, party members said, was the increase in high-level crimes like kidnapping. He warned officials not to get involved in any crimes and said the government would be taking greater pains to crack down on them if they did.
While one party member said the debate reached a level he had never seen before, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the gathering went smoothly.
“This is just a meeting to inform each other of our activities—not one for heavy debate,” he said.
An 11-point English-language statement issued by the party at the convention’s end said the party hopes to maintain King Norodom Sihanouk’s stature as Cambodia’s constitutional monarch, foster peace, increase regional respectability, condemn the “negative activities of a few politicians,” hold a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, decentralize government, grow the economy, continue cooperation with the Funcinpec party, strengthen ties with other countries, maintain “party solidarity” and “uplift patriotism.”
As for the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, Hun Sen told the convention he was more than willing to involve foreigners in a trial of one-time Khmer Rouge leaders, but he hopes to secure Cambodia’s sovereignty in the process, according to party members.