The two ministers who were publicly scolded for their “very slow” work by Prime Minister Hun Sen in February both gave up control to their successors at a pair of handover ceremonies in Phnom Penh on Wednesday as part of a cabinet reshuffle approved by lawmakers on Monday.
In a speech that proved humiliating for Agriculture Minister Ouk Rabun and Public Works and Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek in late February, Mr. Hun Sen gave them both an unofficial F-grade for what he called their sluggish performance and hinted at the shakeup to come.
At the Agriculture Ministry on Wednesday, Mr. Rabun appeared to make a last-ditch attempt to salvage his reputation, blaming bad weather for the performance of the agriculture sector, which has slowed significantly in recent years.
“Obviously, in 2015 we had a natural disaster and it affected cultivation badly,” he said. “However, the agriculture sector has progressed and we produced more than 9.33 million tons [of rice], and almost 3 million tons of processed rice was left for export.”
Cambodia did produce over 9 million tons of rice last year but managed to export less than 540,000 tons of milled rice—far short of the million-ton goal set by the prime minister.
Mr. Rabun is taking over at the Ministry of Rural Development. Replacing him at the Agriculture Ministry is Veng Sakhon, who has been serving as a secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources.
At the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin presided over a ceremony handing the reins from Mr. Iv Tek, who will take over at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, to Sun Chanthol, who is leaving the Commerce Ministry.
He urged Mr. Chanthol, and all other ministers, to better their ministries or risk losing a majority for the ruling CPP come the 2018 national election, reminding them of their near-defeat in 2013.
“In this mandate, the CPP was slapped as 90 or 85 seats fell to 68, so do not let them slap us again down to 61 seats,” he said. “I’m advising all the ministries.”
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