The government has appointed former RCAF Commander-in-Chief General Ke Kim Yan to be a deputy prime minister, and will seek National Assembly approval of the appointment, officials said Tuesday.
Ke Kim Yan has been without a position since being removed as the head of the military by a surprise royal decree Jan 22. CPP officials had previously hinted that the general could not expect a new post until at least after the May council elections.
But Defense Minister Tea Banh confirmed by telephone Tuesday that Ke Kim Yan is set to become a deputy prime minister, bringing the total number of deputy prime ministers to 10.
Asked whether General Ke Kim Yan has been selected to become the government’s 10th deputy prime minister, Tea Banh answered definitively: “Yes.”
“The government will send the request to the National Assembly,” continued Tea Banh, who is himself a deputy prime minister. “When the National Assembly approves it, you will know.”
A senior RCAF officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that the former military chief was to receive the new appointment.
“He has been appointed by the government to be deputy prime minister, and the National Assembly will convene a session for his appointment,” the officer said, adding that Ke Kim Yan would be charged with overseeing the fight against illegal drugs.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith refused to confirm or deny the appointment Tuesday, saying that he did not have the “right” to publicly speak on the matter before the prime minister does.
Council of Ministers spokesman and Secretary of State Phay Siphan said Tuesday that unofficial information concerning Ke Kim Yan’s new appointment had been circulating, but that he had not seen any official documents to confirm it.
“I just heard unofficial information, but the National Assembly will vote to give [Ke Kim Yan] confidence,” Phay Siphan said.
By law, government officials holding ranks of secretary of state or higher must have their appointments approved by the Assembly.
After nearly 10 years in the post, Ke Kim Yan was ousted as the head of the military on Jan 22 at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The official record of a Council of Ministers meeting the following day stated that the general was removed in the name of military reform and because he had allegedly been involved in questionable land deals. The minutes of that meeting state that a number of government bodies had been ordered to investigate those real estate holdings.
On Tuesday, both Tea Banh and Phay Siphan said they were not aware of the investigation into Ke Kim Yan’s land deals that was called for during the Jan 23 Council of Ministers meeting.
The senior RCAF officer, however, claimed on Tuesday that by Jan 26 a government investigation had speedily determined that Ke Kim Yan was not engaged in any improper land transactions.
“The investigation was already concluded,” he said. “Ke Kim Yan wasn’t involved with any land deal.”
Ke Kim Yan could not be reached for comment.
National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel said by telephone Tuesday afternoon that the Assembly had not yet received any request to rule on the appointment of Ke Kim Yan.