Sihanoukville Governor Removed

Chin Sarin has been removed as Sihanoukville’s governor, according to the Interior Ministry, less than four months after the city’s police chief was sacked amid criticism that he was sleeping on the job as a violent crime wave swept through the seaside tourist hub.

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhit Sokhon is also slated for retirement this month, according to the ministry, in an administrative shakeup in one of the country’s economic centers, which has also become a haven for undesirables, both local and foreign. 

Sak Setha, an Interior Ministry secretary of state, said Mr. Sarin would be transferred to a job in the ministry and would be replaced by Y Sokleng, who is currently deputy governor of Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district.

A handing over ceremony will take place on August 7, according to Mr. Sokleng, who declined to comment on his promotion.

Mr. Setha, too, gave little insight into the movements, apart from saying that the Interior Ministry was currently overburdened with work.

“It is normal to transfer government officers,” Mr. Setha said, adding it was unclear what position Mr. Sarin would fill when he moved to Phnom Penh.

It is also unclear who will succeed Mr. Sokhon, the provincial governor, who has only been in the job since mid-2014, when he was transferred from chief of the Takeo provincial council.

“Chhit Sokhon will retire next month [August] but we don’t know his replacement,” Mr. Setha said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 24 signed off on the transfer of Mr. Sarin, according to a sub-decree. Contacted yesterday, however, the outgoing city governor said that he had only heard rumors of his removal, the announcement of which comes a month after he sent a letter to the Interior Ministry requesting he be promoted to provincial governor.

The letter outlines Mr. Sarin’s career as civil servant, to which he gave his “heart and body” in stints as a military serviceman, an official in the Senate cabinet, deputy governor of Preah Sihanouk province, and as an adviser to the late Senate President Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen before being appointed Sihanoukville governor in 2009.

“I seek authorization from Samdech Sar Kheng to serve as governor of Preah Sihanouk province for one mandate as the final [chapter] of my work life,” said the letter to the interior minister.

Mr. Sarin said yesterday that there was no connection between his letter and his new job. “I wrote that letter from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “I want to ask you, reporter, is it only me who writes administrative letters?”

Numerous officials in Sihanouk­ville—which is at the center of the government’s new industrial expansion plans due to being home to the country’s biggest port—declined to comment Friday on the removal of the governor.

Reach Sovann, a deputy to Mr. Sarin, said the city had returned to “normal” after it was rocked by a series of violent crimes, mostly surrounding an Eastern European rave festival that was ultimately called off, as well as the volatile power struggle between two Russian businessmen, one of whom spent months in prison before the other was extradited.

“The situation is normal, even security, safety and public order,” Mr. Sovann said.

Chhuon Narin, the former deputy Phnom Penh police chief who became the top cop in Preah Si­ha­nouk in April in an effort to restore order in the midst of the crime wave—including shootings, stabbings, car explosions and a casino brawl—declined to comment on the replacement of the city governor.

He did, however, say that the seaside city had stabilized in recent months.

“It is getting better and better,” he said. “Every day, we are strengthening and updating our efforts to prevent criminal offenses, drugs and the issues with foreigners.”

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