Pol Saroeun was installed as RCAF’s new commander in chief and his predecessor, Ke Kim Yan, officially relieved of his duties Saturday in a ceremony at the Ministry of Defense presided over by Defense Minister Tea Banh.
Journalists were barred from the ceremony, except for one reporter each from Apsara TV and Bayon TV.
The Apsara reporter described the scene.
In his farewell address, Ke Kim Yan, 56, his voice shaking with emotion, said he had asked to leave the post because of failing health, according to the reporter.
Ke Kim Yan said that after serving the army for 29 years, his transfer should not come as a surprise, the Apsara reporter said, adding that Ke Kim Yan said that he told Prime Minister Hun Sen he wanted to resign in July because of health problems.
Ke Kim Yan was ousted at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday, and Pol Saroeun named in his stead. That prompted speculations that changing alliances within the ruling CPP were behind the shift in RCAF high command.
According to the Apsara reporter, Pol Saroeun vowed during the ceremony to defend the nation and continue to work to solve the border problem with Thailand by peaceful means.
Contacted by phone Sunday, Pol Saroeun declined to comment beyond saying he had taken up his new post.
Tea Banh reiterated at the ceremony that the change was a mere reshuffle that was normal in a free, democratic country, the reporter said.
Speaking on the phone Sunday, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap also said the change of leadership was part of a wider reform of national security institutions, citing the appointment of Neth Savoeun as national police chief following the death of former chief Hok Lundy in a November helicopter crash.
“We need to reform national defense, especially abilities, discipline and intelligence for our RCAF,” he said.