Keat Chhon, Other Ministers Likely to Retain Portfolios

Keat Chhon will remain fi­nance minister and is one of at least nine ministers slated to retain current posts, party and diplomatic officials said this week.

Keat Chhon, a CPP central committee mem­­­­ber who left the Kh­mer Rouge in 1984, is viewed as a technocrat capable of renegotiating financial aid packages with international donors.

“This is a positive step for the new government,” said one Asian diplomat, noting that Commerce Minis­ter Cham Prasidh, Minister of the­ Council of Ministers Sok An and Finance Undersecretary of State Chhay Than had also been considered for the post. “Keat Chhon has credibility in the international community.”

Te Duong Tara, an economic advise­r to the government, said many ministers within the CPP would keep their jobs in the soon-to-be appointed government.

“Not only Keat Chhon, but other ministers, too,” Te Duong Tara said Thursday.

One government official said he didn’t expect Keat Chhon to remain in the post for more than a year—“Only until the aid agreements are renegotiated.”

Chhay Than would not confirm whether he would move from Finance to the top position at the Planning Ministry, as has been reported in the Khmer-language press. “I only read the newspapers,” he said Thursday.

Official new minister appointments are not expected to be announced until next week.

Each party will also appoint one deputy prime minister and head up one secretariat. The Sam Rainsy Party will not be included in the government.

Senior CPP and Funcinpec officials have made their selections for nearly all the posts. How­ever, officials would not confirm who the CPP would name to lead the Industry Ministry or the Social Welfare Ministry.

On the Funcinpec side, a top party official said Thursday night that Princess Norodom Bopha Devi was leaning towards not accepting the Ministry of Culture portfolio and that Ahmad Yahya was wavering on whether to accept the Parliamentary Rel­ations and Inspection post. Two sources said the party was unsettled on the Justice position, and Khek Vandy was mentioned as a possible candidate both for justice minister and for the governor of Phnom Penh.

Chhim Seak Leng, the former Funcinpec governor of Phnom Penh, is expected to be minister of rural development but claimed to not know about it. “I got excited when I saw my name…in the paper, but I don’t know anything about it,” he said Thursday.

Chhea Song, whom newspapers and government insiders have repeatedly tapped to be the next CPP minister of agriculture, also would not confirm his appointment. “I have not received it as official,” the Agriculture secretary of state said Thursday.

(Reporting by Kimsan Chan­tara, Debra Boyce and Chris Decherd)

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