Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday sought to put an end to the rampant speculation concerning the Jan 22 removal of RCAF commander-in-chief Ke Kim Yan, saying that internal conflict within his ruling CPP had nothing to do with the decision to oust the long-serving general.
Many have seen the abrupt removal of Ke Kim Yan as indicative of infighting within the leadership of the ruling party, with many rumors circulating about a behind-the-scenes battle between Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim.
Speaking to reporters at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday, Hun Sen flatly denied that there was any such conflict, saying that whether the RCAF commander had been removed or not, the CPP would be free of conflict.
“They say this removal was just to beef up Hun Sen’s forces and weaken Samdech Chea Sim’s force,” the prime minister said. “I would like to assert that, if we hadn’t removed Mr Yan, there would still be no problem inside the Cambodian People’s Party.
“I would like to clarify things with the opposition who have endlessly commented…that I wouldn’t dare touch the important army commanders,” Hun Sen added. “But when I removed him, you commented that it was the result of internal conflict of the CPP.
“I would like to assert that the CPP does not have such a tradition of conflict on this issue because this is the right of the premier to manage and control the military, police and other public administration.”
Hun Sen also reiterated the party line regarding the removal of Ke Kim Yan, saying that it was aimed at “speeding reform” within the military.
“What I want most in this fourth mandate is the effectiveness of public service,” the premier said. “If we just talk about common reforms without effectiveness, we should not need to reform.”
Newly appointed Commander-in-Chief General Pol Saroeun has said since taking the office that there would be no more major reshuffling of the military leadership, but on Friday Hun Sen said that more reassignments in the name of reform were a possibility.
“Government officials, military police and public servants as well must be re-inspected [to determine] who should stay longer and who should go to work on something else depending on their real capacities,” he said.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann dismissed Hun Sen’s assertion that the political opposition had been creating and spreading rumors of an internal rift in the CPP.
“The Sam Rainsy Party has no tradition of interfering in or destroying any political parties,” he said.
Formerly chairman of National Assembly’s defense commission, Yim Sovann added that he was not convinced by Hun Sen’s assertion that Ke Kim Yan was ousted in the name of reform.
“To achieve real reform in the army is not just to remove a single person,” he said. “It needs to be on a large scale, including a distancing of the army commander far away from a political party.”
Both Ke Kim Yan and Pol Saroeun are senior members of the CPP’s 263-member central committee, ranked at number 14 and 15 respectively.