Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed on Tuesday to arrest civil servants who gave the government a bad name and skewered political commentators for criticizing his cabinet reshuffle.
Speaking at Phnom Penh City Hall for the inauguration of a new 12-story building there, Mr. Hun Sen said a small number of state employees from unnamed parties other than the CPP were intentionally confusing the public about the government’s effectiveness.
“A very small number intends to damage our administrative reputation and we know through some research those are people from other parties,” he said. “Some political parties have used those who are assigned by them in public administration to damage the reputation of all public administrative officials.”
Mr. Hun Sen said “good” officials should go after those he accused of conspiring against the government.
“I request that good officials arrest and prosecute such people and give us back our cleanliness,” he said.
The comments come amid a flurry of activity by the Anti-Corruption Unit, which last week arrested a bureau chief in the Foreign Affairs Ministry over embezzlement and this week detained Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea for questioning over corruption.
The prime minister also used the occasion to blast unnamed political commentators, a common target of his ire, for their less than enthusiastic response to a surprise cabinet reshuffle announced last month and approved by the National Assembly on Monday.
“I will not use the word ‘analyst’ in Cambodia, but there are some commentators who say: ‘Transferring people or not transferring people is not important, because the power is centralized with one person,’ referring to me,” he said.
The prime minister said the commentators had it all wrong, as he had in fact given broad discretion to ministers to put forward their own picks for secretaries and undersecretaries of state, appointments that are ultimately up to the prime minister.
“In contrast, all of you have abused my right,” he told ministers attending the event. “Why do I say [you] abused my right? Because I am willing to be abused in order to attract human resources. Some ministers propose appointments and I respect that and approve them because you are all human beings that I know.”
Seeming to contradict his previous statement that only officials from other parties were reflecting poorly on the government, Mr. Hun Sen lambasted the performance of Sam Piseth, the director of Phnom Penh’s public works and transport department.
“Where is Sam Piseth? Do you have eyes to watch the road? Frankly speaking, since you have been appointed, the roads are really bad,” he said. “I am wondering why more roads are being built but repairs happen less.”
“Sometimes I call the municipal governor and tell him ‘Hey! The road in this area is like this or like that,’” he continued. “Today, the [pothole] is as small as a small bowl, so it will be as big as a big bowl tomorrow.”
Mr. Piseth could not be reached for comment.
The prime minister also ordered the creation of a committee to be headed by Phnom Penh municipal officials to remove certain locations that have long been occupied by citizens from the inventory of state land.
“Those people have lived there for 30 years, but it’s still listed in the state’s inventory,” he said, without naming any specific areas.
“Please, people, after hearing Hun Sen announce it today, do not tonight encroach and grab two more meters,” he added. “You will not only lose the land but we will bring a court case against you.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that it was too early to say how many locations would be impacted by Mr. Hun Sen’s order.