Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday contradicted his coalition partner Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh yet again by stating that there will be no more political appointments to government positions, amid calls from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party to reshuffle the entire Cabinet.
Hun Sen said Prince Ranariddh was mistaken when he told party officials on Sunday to select royalist officials for village chief positions provided for in the Funcinpec-CPP coalition agreement, which allocates 30 percent of the posts to Funcinpec and 70 percent to the CPP.
“This is the final message to avoid any confusion,” Hun Sen said in a speech a ceremony in Pursat province that was broadcast on radio.
“Thirty and seventy [percent], we cannot implement it based on the reality of the law and politics. Just appointing people to be commune chiefs and village chiefs by abusing the law, we cannot do that,” he said.
Hun Sen said that the quota system of partisan political appointments, which the two parties had maintained since 1993, must end.
Party appointments to positions in the military, police and civil service must cease in order to promote reform and “neutrality in the armed forces and public administration,” he said.
“We have people who graduated with bachelors and masters degrees [but] we don’t use them, we only use pig slaughterers,” he said, in an apparent reference to the profession of a recent Funcinpec appointee.
Prince Ranariddh told his supporters on Sunday that the CPP could pick officials to fill its quota for village chiefs first, and that Funcinpec would then fill the remaining posts.
Hun Sen responded that splitting the positions between the two parties contradicts the law on commune councils, which states that commune councilors must elect village chiefs.
“It is up to the commune councilors’ ballots. Whoever you want to vote for is up to you,” Hun Sen said.
Noranarith Anandayath, Prince Ranariddh’s cabinet chief, declined direct comment on the speech, but said Funcinpec is continuing to adhere to the quota system with the CPP.
Funcinpec spokesman Chea Chanboribo said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay called on the government to reshuffle ministerial positions at the Council of Ministers following the dismissal of Funcinpec’s former co-minister of defense Nhiek Bun Chhay and co-minister of interior Prince Norodom Sirivudh on March 2.
“This is a good opportunity for the prime minister to take full responsibility,” Son Chhay said.
Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said that the number of ministers should be reduced.
“This is to reduce the government’s expenditures and corruption,” Eng Chhay Eang said.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said the CPP has enjoyed a recent gain in strength, while Funcinpec has continued its decline.
But he urged Funcinpec to remain patient with the CPP for its own sake, stating that they have more to lose if they don’t.
“The Funcinpec party has to keep its patience otherwise the party would lose further benefits,” he said.