Prime Minister Hun Sen has suspended Funcinpec’s Minister of Labor Nhep Bunchin and appointed CPP secretary of state Vong Soth as acting minister, according to a suspension order obtained Friday.
Hun Sen did not state the reason for the move in his order, dated May 11, but Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said a committee will be established by the Ministry of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection to examine Nhep Bunchin’s activities in his ministerial position.
“There are a lot of problems,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We cannot say yet whether he is guilty or not,” he added, although he declined to say what Nhep Bunchin has been accused of.
Sok San, a Funcinpec secretary of state at the Labor Ministry, said officials from both the Inspection Ministry and the Ministry of Finance have begun investigations at the Labor Ministry relating to Nhep Bunchin. “It is not a political matter,” Sok San said. “The inspection is under way.”
Sok San said that Nhep Bunchin is currently in the US attending the funeral of his mother-in-law, but declined further comment.
Prak Chantha, another Funcinpec secretary of state at the labor ministry, also declined to comment.
Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec secretary-general, said he was not concerned about Nhep Bunchin’s removal. “It is normal. It is the work of the government,” he said. “I’m not worried. I think the government might inspect all ministries.”
Koul Panha, director of the NGO Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Funcinpec officials are more vulnerable to being removed from their jobs since the Constitution was amended in March to reduce the amount of lawmakers required to form a government. “Funcinpec officials probably need to be more careful than before,” he said. “They are officials who can be easily suspended and removed.”
He said that he did not believe the CPP would subject its own ministers to such scrutiny relating to their professional conduct.
“The CPP ministers have never been inspected,” he said.