The National Assembly voted secretly on Tuesday to formally replace Funcinpec Minister of Labor Nhep Bunchin with CPP Labor Ministry Secretary of State Vong Soth.
A vote of 82 lawmakers carried the appointment of Vong Soth, who is the son-in-law of National Assembly President and ruling CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin, while seven votes were counted against the appointment and 11 lawmakers abstained.
Following the vote, Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that Nhep Bunchin is being investigated for his alleged role in the charging of fees to Cambodians signing up for work in Thailand and South Korea, and in the alleged illegal sending of laborers to Saudi Arabia.
“I want to tell you that I don’t care if one comes from CPP or Funcinpec, or whatever party,” Hun Sen said. “We will do the same if any institution would commit a mistake.”
He said that the Labor Ministry is ripe for corruption, controlling vocational training centers including a new one built with South Korean grants totaling $30 million.
“I regret that I cannot uphold my intention to have all government members stay until the end of the mandate,” Hun Sen said. “I have to replace the minister to strengthen good governance at the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training,” Hun Sen maintained.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he abstained from voting because the government did not report officially on why it was removing Nhep Bunchin.
“If Nhep Bunchin is guilty, there should be an official letter from the government,” he said. “The reshuffle was made to take away the position from Funcinpec more than anything else.”
Nhep Bunchin was reportedly outside the country and could not be reached for comment.
Funcinpec lawmaker Khieu San said he was satisfied with Vong Soth’s appointment.
“I am happy that the National Assembly voted for a new minister,” he said.
“For Nhep Bunchin’s work, I don’t know what was going on because that was internal business,” the royalist lawmaker said.