Nhek Bun Chhay, the head of the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) who was the country’s military commander under the Funcinpec-led government in the 1990s, has been stripped of his role as an adviser to the government, according to a royal decree. He held the position for nearly five years.
The reason for his removal was unclear, with a government spokesman saying he was unaware of the motive.
The decree was signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on June 4, the day of local-level elections that saw the KNUP win a commune chief seat in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok commune, the only commune of 1,646 countrywide not to be won by either the ruling CPP or the main opposition CNRP.
The decree, released on Friday by government mouthpiece Fresh News, says: “The royal decree decides to end His Excellency Nhek Bun Chhay’s position as government adviser or equivalent to deputy prime minister.”
Neither Mr. Bun Chhay nor KNUP spokesman Tum Sambor could be reached for comment on Sunday.
Contacted on Friday, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not know why Mr. Bun Chhay had been stripped of his role.
“I don’t know the motive because it’s administrative work,” Mr. Siphan said. “Generally the government has the power to ask for appointments or removals.”
A major player in Cambodian politics for the past three decades, Mr. Bun Chhay was put in charge of the country’s military in 1993 during the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government, before the CPP emerged victorious from armed clashes in 1997 between troops loyal to the CPP and those of its royalist rival.
Mr. Bun Chhay was appointed deputy prime minister in 2004, but his title was changed to government adviser in 2013. He left Funcinpec to launch the KNUP last year.
The usually outspoken leader has gone quiet since his surprise—albeit minor—victory in the commune elections.
His telephones have been switched off and a security guard at his Phnom Penh home last week said authorities had been “making trouble” at his residence on Election Day. The guard did not give his name before asking a reporter to leave.
Despite this, in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Wednesday, Mr. Bun Chhay denied rumors that he was considering a merger with the CNRP.
“People often say this, those who hate me always say it,” he was quoted as saying. “I told Samdech Techo [Prime Minister Hun Sen] that there is no problem.”