Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday shot down a criticism of his recent appointments of new government advisers, declaring that he will appoint as many as he sees fit.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay wrote to Hun Sen this week requesting a halt to the appointments, saying there were already too many advisers and accusing the government of acting illegally by giving such positions to SRP and Funcinpec defectors who have joined the ruling CPP.
“This morning, one man wrote to the prime minister to stop appointing defectors to be government advisers,” Hun Sen said in a speech at a bridge inauguration ceremony in Kandal province.
“I would like to leave a message that those who defect, we will appoint them all,” Hun Sen said.
“We need people, especially those who are from the opposition party, because they know the government’s weak points…. If a hundred people come, we will accept the hundred people [and] I have the right to appoint them to be government or prime minister advisers,” he said.
“[SRP] board of director members will be given government adviser [positions],” he added.
“It is not your money,” Hun Sen said in apparent reference to Son Chhay, adding “the government can spend the national budget.”
The prime minister also attacked his critic for asking too many questions of the government during this mandate.
“I do not have to reply in a written statement,” Hun Sen said, ordering other officials to reply to the lawmaker instead.
Contacted by telephone Thursday, Son Chhay said that Hun Sen, by refusing to answer his letter, was violating lawmakers’ constitutional right to question and receive a response from the prime minister.
“The questions are not a joke,” Son Chhay said.
“We want the government to comply with the law, and these appointments have abused the Constitution. The national budget law does not state that the prime minister can use the budget to make appointments,” he said.
Under Article 96 of the Constitution, lawmakers have the right to submit questions to the government. If the case concerns the overall policy of the government, the prime minister is required to be the one who answers.
Hun Sen also took the opportunity Thursday to announce that the government will study the possibility of raising the family allowances paid to civil servants. He also expressed his support for well-known CTN news anchorman Soy Sopheap, who faces a defamation and disinformation suit filed by SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang.
Hun Sen said the lawsuit was evidence that the SRP was moving away from democracy.
“You are the opposition party but you have already sued a journalist,” Hun Sen said. “And you claim that you are a democrat? You aren’t in power and you have done this—what happens if you are in power?”
Eng Chhay Eang said Thursday that he was standing by his lawsuit against Soy Sopheap, though he expressed despair for his case now that Hun Sen had spoken out against it.
“I want the law to give me justice,” said Eng Chhay Eang, who has accused Soy Sopheap of airing an unbalanced news story that contained allegations the SRP secretary-general continues to have a gambling problem.