Identity of Dismissed CPP Senator Revealed

The fourth CPP senator to be fired in the last month was identified Sunday as Keo San, a French-Cambodian physician who operates a clinic in Takhmau town.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday he had the power to fire anyone he decides is incompetent. He made his remarks at the Ministry of Interior, where he addressed employees at the close of a ministry congress.

“I am happy to pin the rank to you, but I can also demote you. I just fired one CPP senator from the party,” the prime minister said Friday.

Hun Sen did not identify the senator, nor say why he had been fired.

But Senate Secretary-General Oum Sarith confirmed Sunday it was Keo San who had been terminated. “[The party] would fire anyone who is found deviating from the party line,” Oum Sarith said.

Keo San declined comment Sunday, saying he has received no official notice.

The physician was an experienced legislator who served as deputy chairman of the National Assembly from 1966 to 1972. That term spanned then-Prince Noro­dom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime and the beginning of the Lon Nol regime.

Last week, during Senate de­bate on the 2002 budget, Keo San called for greater fiscal restraint by the Royal Palace. He said the budget was excessive and questioned why the palace needs a fleet of 50 vehicles for just two royals.

Keo San’s remarks drew a furious response from Funcinpec lawmaker Serey Kosal, who said they violated the constitutional prohibition against criticizing the King.

Keo San last week denied he was critical of the King, saying he simply asked that palace expenditures be more closely scrutinized.

On Dec 8, the CPP expelled three other senators for failing to respect party discipline. Two of the senators—Phay Siphan and Chhang Song—are Cambodian-Americans, while the third, Poeu Savath, is Cambodian-Australian. Keo San holds French and Cam­bodian citizenship.

Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said she believes the men were sacked because they developed the  habit of speaking freely during their time in advanced demo­cracies.

In the past, she said, the CPP apparently felt it needed outspoken members to counter those in other political parties and in civil society who were not afraid to speak up.

“Now the party is consolidating control,” she said, by sending very clear messages that speaking out comes at a price. It is a shame, Chea Vannath said, to see the Senate hit so hard, given that observers had begun to think it was doing a better job than might be expected.

Instead of simply rubber-stamping legislation from the National Assembly, she said, the Senate has several times raised legitimate questions about the constitutionality of laws.

“We started thinking that may­be the Senate was going to be of some use,” Chea Vannath said. “The removal of these four senators takes us back to the idea of the useless Senate.”


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