Nhim Vanda, the first vice president of the National Disaster Management Committee, has been promoted to the rank of four-star general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, according to a royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on Friday.
“Our country has peace—the promotion is about dignity,” Nhim Vanda said Sunday. “This four-star general [rank] will allow me to manage bird flu,” he said.
Nhim Vanda said that his work in June to locate the crashed PMT Air flight U4 241, on which 22 passengers and crew perished, in the mountains of Kampot province earned him the promotion in rank.
“There was no other senior official who slept in the forest—I’m not afraid of malaria,” he said.
Referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s criticism of the way the search and rescue operation was managed in Kampot, Nhim Vanda said that the premier’s comments were excellent advice. “Samdech blames those he trusts—those who are not blamed should be careful,” he added.
After the Khmer Rouge’s defeat in 1979, Nhim Vanda’s first job consisted of distributing bread rations for the Finance Ministry. He obtained a masters degree in economic management in Russia in the early 1990s; and has served as commerce minister, minister in charge of youth affairs, the prime minister’s special representative, and secretary of the NDMC since the 1990s.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the promotion would help Nhim Vanda lead RCAF soldiers in rescue missions if need be.
“The position allows him to seek help from police and the military,” he said, adding that the four stars were “just an honorary promotion.”
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay questioned the value in making the head of the country’s disaster management committee a full-ranking military general.
“Nhim Vanda has no work at the Ministry of Defense. He is working on disaster management—this is unreasonable,” Son Chhay said, adding that he wanted Hun Sen to explain his decision.