Their interests range from casinos to the tobacco trade, and on Jan 22 they broadened their interests once again, when they were elected to the country’s highest legislative body, the Senate.
Kok An, who imports and distributes 555 brand cigarettes, joined his tycoon peers Ly Yong Phat of Hero King Co Ltd, Mong Reththy of the Mong Reththy Group and Kong Triv of KT Pacific Group Ltd, when he was elected to a Senate seat.
Lav Meng Khin, a chairman of land concession giant Pheapimex, also landed a Senate seat, as did Men Sarun, the commodity mogul who chairs Men Sarun Import Export Co.
On Monday, Kok An said he would not use his new post to promote his business interests.
“I will not use my position to protect my property,” he said, adding that he plans to use his experience to help bring in more effective laws.
“If there is an inappropriate law, I will oppose it but I will oppose it in a suitable way—not too extremely,” he said. “I am committed to help the country and the people.”
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said having businessmen in the Senate will help introduce better laws to protect business.
“All businessmen are not always bad,” he said, adding that the tycoons can explain business to other senators.
Prince Norodom Chakrapong and former Funcinpec prime minister Ung Huot also assumed seats in the Senate.
Ung Huot, who is in his first government position in eight years, said he was committed to decentralization, and to helping empower commune councilors.
“We have a real partner, the commune councilors,” he said, adding that the Senate can also examine inappropriate laws that have been passed by the National Assembly.
Kong Korm, acting president of the Sam Rainsy Party and a newly elected senator, said the Senate was of little importance.
“Having the Senate or not having it, it’s the same,” Kong Korm said.
“I think they [new senators] don’t use the power for the benefit of the people but to protect their own benefits,” he said.