Picnic or Politics? RCAF Chief Takes Teachers on Trip

RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan took 245 Banteay Mean­chey province schoolteachers on an all-expenses-paid outing to Phnom Penh and to Sihanouk­ville’s Ochateal beach last week, according to an assistant to Ke Kim Yan who helped organize the trip.

The three-day outing, which ran from April 30 to May 2, was the fourth time the CPP four-star general had hosted villagers from his home province at the seaside town, said Heng Sambath.

Heng Sambath said that the trip, for which five buses were hired at a cost of $750 each, was intended to reward the teachers from Preah Netr Preah district and broaden their horizons.

“Excellency Ke Kim Yan knew poor people in Banteay Meanchey are far away for visiting other regions in the country, so we showed them around for a picnic and to see better development,” he said.

Ke Kim Yan could not be reach­ed for comment, but government spokesman and Information Min­ister Khieu Kanharith said senior government officials have an established practice of generosity toward the public and that this should not be viewed as electioneering.

“People in the countryside have never seen the beach or Angkor Wat, so it is good that generous people show them around for a picnic,” he said, adding that he had himself once taken countryside students to the shore.

CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum has previously taken Kom­pong Cham province residents to see Angkor Wat, Khieu Kanharith added.

Last week’s trip included a banquet with Ke Kim Yan in Sihan­oukville, during which the military chief gave each guest $7.37, a sarong and two-night stays at Mit­tapheap district’s Marina and Holiday hotels, Heng Sambath said.

Teacher Deng Veth, who attended the trip, said no mention was made of politics. “We thank excellency Ke Kim Yan for bringing us to see new things we have never seen,” he said.

But not everyone was so im­pressed. Norodom Ranariddh Par­ty spokesman Muth Channtha said he believed the trips were an at­tempt to increase support for the CPP in Banteay Meanchey.

“[Ke Kim Yan] is going to woo people to work for him in the next election,” he claimed.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said people should expect more from their government officials than trips to the beach.

Given the wealth of some government officials, members of the public attending such trips are “getting peanuts,” he added.


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