Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday defended the appointment of his niece’s husband Neth Savoeun as the new national police commissioner and strongly rebuked the political opposition for their concerns over the appointment and their demands for greater authority within the National Assembly.
Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for an ethanol production facility in Kandal province, the prime minister said Neth Savoeun is the right man to step into the shoes of Hok Lundy, the long-serving national police chief and powerful Hun Sen ally who was killed in a helicopter crash Nov 9.
“When the national police commissioner died, we appointed a new one,” Hun Sen said. “Some people have been saying that [Neth Savoeun] is not neutral because he is Hun Sen’s nephew. Can he not do the job because he is Hun Sen’s nephew? What can I do about the fact that he is my nephew?”
“My in-law [Hok Lundy] died, and my nephew was appointed because he has been working [in the police] most of his life and his rank, after Hok Lundy, it is him,” Hun Sen continued. Neth Savoeun is married to Hun Sen’s niece Hun Kimleng. Hok Lundy’s daughter Hok Chindavy is married to the premier’s son Hun Manit.
Hun Sen went on to apparently dash opposition hopes that it would secure more authority in the CPP-dominated National Assembly.
The prime minister denied that he had cheated the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties to get them to participate in the first session of the National Assembly when it reconvened in September. The opposition parties had been threatening to boycott the proceedings but ultimately joined them after Hun Sen promised to officially “recognize” the opposition.
The opposition claimed that this promise meant that changes would be made to the internal rules of the Assembly to ensure that minority lawmakers received a certain number of positions of authority within the legislature. However, their requested amendments were quickly shot down by the CPP, prompting some opposition figures to say that the premier had deceived them, while others expressed hope that Hun Sen would intervene to give them what they had asked for.
The prime minister made it clear Monday that no such positions would be granted: “They wanted to me to recognize the opposition party, but they [also] wanted to make changes to 26 articles of the 82-article [internal regulations]. Their demands included the budget and the National Assembly vice president position and commission chairmen. Please throw it [the SRP’s request] away.”
“Don’t have hope that you will have the vice presidency and commission chairmen,” he continued, adding that if the opposition continues to complain he would see to it that Assembly Deputy Secretary-General Hul Buntha, an SRP official, loses his job.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said by telephone Monday that his party was not interested in who cheated whom. “We are concerned about the nation’s interest. We want checks and balances between the executive and the legislative,” he said. “We want opposition parties’ participation inside the National Assembly. Without SRP voices inside Assembly commissions, this is a dictatorship.”
Yim Sovann also reiterated his concerns over Neth Savoeun’s appointment, saying the police, under the leadership of people such as the new police commissioner, have failed to solve a litany of high-profile crimes involving politicians, celebrities and union leaders.
“If we continue to have the same people, we won’t know whether he can really do the job or not,” he said, adding that nepotism in government makes it difficult for officials who breach the law to be properly punished.
HRP Vice President Keat Sokhun said Hun Sen’s promise to recognize the opposition parties’ role was a fraud. He added that from the beginning the HRP didn’t trust Hun Sen, and had asked for a written pledge from the premier to avoid this outcome. No such document was ever produced.
“This is real—this is new evidence that what he was saying was not true,” Keat Sokhun said, adding that recognizing the opposition’s role means guaranteeing the opposition’s participation in the Assembly. “It is meaningless without giving voices to the opposition party,” he said.