Prime Minister Hun Sen told the weekly Council of Ministers meeting Friday that former RCAF Commander in Chief Ke Kim Yan was removed from his post because of his involvement in land disputes, an official who was at the meeting claimed Monday.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who is also a deputy prime minister, said by telephone Monday that Hun Sen told the Cabinet that Ke Kim Yan’s removal the previous day was due to his involvement in land disputes, and because his business interests were interfering with his job as chief of the military.
“[Ke Kim Yan] was involved with businesses and he was careless with work—he never joined with the Ministry of Defense’s meetings,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said, referring to what Hun Sen had told the Cabinet meeting he attended.
“He was involved in land disputes,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said. “He has many land-deal businesses,” he continued, adding that the prime minister noted there is a court case pending against Ke Kim Yan over a land dispute.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Hun Sen told the Cabinet meeting the termination of Ke Kim Yan as commander in chief was “based on military reform and land reform, for efficiency.”
Phay Siphan declined to comment further on what Hun Sen said at the meeting.
During a ceremony at the Defense Ministry on Saturday morning, General Pol Saroeun was installed as commander in chief and his predecessor, Ke Kim Yan, was officially relieved of his duties.
In his farewell address, Ke Kim Yan, 56, said he had wanted to leave his post after 29 years of army service because of poor health, according to a local journalist who attended the ceremony.
News of his removal through a Jan 22 royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni at the behest of Hun Sen prompted speculation that changing alliances within the ruling CPP were behind the shift in RCAF high commanders.
Ke Kim Yan has not spoken publicly of his removal and reporters have been unable to contact him for comment since last week.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith declined to talk about Hun Sen’s comments at the Council of Ministers on Friday.
“This is military reform toward good governance,” Khieu Kanharith said, before declining further comment.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said by telephone Monday morning that the CPP’s permanent committee members would convene a meeting to decide on Ke Kim Yan’s next post, but that he did not know when that meeting would take place.
“The permanent committee will decide his new position. As of right now, Ke Kim Yan has no position,” he said.
Nevertheless, Cheam Yeap added: “The CPP won’t abandon our members.”
According to the CPP’s Web site, Ke Kim Yan is ranked as the 14th most senior member on the CPP central committee. His replacement, Pol Saroeun, sits just one spot behind him at 15th.