Cambodia has made a 29-year-old military officer and member of a powerful ruling party family its youngest general, drawing criticism from pro-democracy advocates.
Yim Leang, who turned 29 Jan 1, was promoted from colonel to brigadier general in December and will lead the bodyguard unit of Senate President Chea Sim, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Yim Leang’s father is Yim Chhay Ly, Ministry of Rural Development secretary of state, and his father-in-law is Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara.
“This is symptomatic of the problems plaguing Cambodia’s political leaders and shows how the military continues its corrupt and unaccountable ways,” said Lao Mong Hay, director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.
Military officials confirmed there is no general younger than Yim Leang. The new general acknowledged that he is young, but said he earned his promotion.
“I have done well for Samdech Chea Sim,” Yim Leang said. “I’ve needed to use some of my own money to supply my unit and my men have never caused trouble,” he said.
Several Cambodian army leaders, including Meas Sophea, a deputy commander in chief, were unaware of the promotion, which was signed by Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen on Dec 17, the documents stated.
“There is no law to say what age a general must be, but it is normal for him to be at least 37 or 38, so this one would be a young general,” Meas Sophea said.
Cambodia’s army had nearly 3,000 generals in 1993, but the number was reduced to 200 by 1998 under pressure from international donors. There are now 380 officers carrying the rank of general, army personnel director Dam Vuthy said.
“We must reward loyal men, and we cannot do it with high salaries because we have no money,” Dam Vuthy said.
He refused to comment on Yim Leang’s promotion.