Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned all military officers to keep their hands clean of illicit activities, such as luxury wood smuggling and illegal fishing, or be prepared to face punishment.
“I want to declare from now that the military [officers] who are involved with the illegal business should not stay any longer with the military,” Mr Hun Sen said in a forceful speech at the end of a two day seminar in the capital on reforms within RCAF in the last five years and plans for the military in the next five.
“Withdraw from any illegal [business] activities,” Mr Hun Sen told an audience of more than 300 officials and military officers at the Ministry of Defense. “I acknowledge that some military [officers] are fake military [officers], but some are actual military [officers] who are smuggling wood and clearing the forest.”
“So, it should be enough: You have the house, you have everything,” he added. “I only have five stars, but I will demote the moon.”
The prime minister told police to arrest anyone who uses the “Hun family name” to threaten others or take part in illegal business activities.
At one point in his roughly hour-and-a-half speech, Mr Hun Sen singled out three high-ranking military officers for misdeeds.
He pointed to Sum Samnang, director-general of the Ministry of Defense’s logistics and finance department, who was in the audience, and accused him of reducing the per diem pay of military trainees to half of the 5,000 riel ordered by Defense Minister Tea Banh.
Mr Samnang stood up.
“Yes, it’s true Samdech,” he replied to the premier’s accusation.
Mr Hun Sen also mentioned Chau Phirun, director general of the Ministry of Defense’s equipment and technical department, under whose watch an ammunition warehouse exploded in Battambang province some years ago.
“Strengthen your responsibility,” the prime minister said.
Reached by telephone after the seminar, Mr Phirun said he would take Mr Hun Sen’s advice and improve his management of ammunition at military warehouses. He attributed the explosion in Battambang to a lack of technology and old ammunition.
“It was a long time ago, in 2005,” he said. “Samdech [Mr Hun Sen] just wanted to raise this incident at the seminar. We acknowledge this failure.”
The third military officer Mr Hun Sen named was Chhoeun Chanthan, commander of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguards, who the prime minister said tried to sell the Navy headquarters in the capital’s Russei Keo district. Mr Hun Sen also accused Mr Chanthan of using subordinates to his own personal endeavors.
“None of the commanders use their soldiers to work at their farm,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Previously, they use both military forces and equipment. Don’t use the military force to work at your home.”
Neither Mr Chanthan nor Mr Samnang could be reached for comment.
Chhum Socheat, spokesman at the Ministry of Defense, said Mr Hun Sen brought up these misdeeds as examples, and not because the officers would be dismissed.
“It was a very long time [since these] mistakes,” he said. “Samdech [Mr Hun Sen] was just reminding. The major thing is he wants to educate. His words were not because he wanted to dismiss anybody.”
Also during his speech yesterday, Mr Hun Sen vowed to strengthen the management of RCAF in the next five years in order to protect the country from invasion.
He advised the military to strengthen its human resources, especially in military regions three, four and five, which lie along the border with Thailand.
He also said the military has enough ammunition for a decade-long conflict.
“I have prepared enough [ammunition] for you to fight ten years,” Mr Hun Sen said. If there is a clash, “Do not say the ammunition will not fire or you cannot shoot the [old] gun.”