The National Assembly yesterday approved a reshuffle of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, with a pair of unidentified opposition lawmakers backing the changes along with the ruling party, even after the prime minister reminded the CNRP he didn’t need their support.
Following a speech by the premier, 70 of 107 lawmakers present at the National Assembly voted to endorse the shake-up, which will see eight ministries change hands.
The prime minister took the opportunity prior to the secret ballot to remind the 40 CNRP lawmakers present (several, including acting president Kem Sokha, were abroad) that their opposition to the reshuffle meant little given the CPP’s majority.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the [CNRP] members who said that they will not vote to support this [reshuffle]. I would like to thank you so much,” Hun Sen told the assembly.
“Because the [CPP] does not need your votes and if [CNRP lawmakers] vote for [CPP] causes then the [CPP] owes a favour to His Excellency or Her Excellency. So, please do not vote [for us] at all.”
Two CNRP lawmakers, however, proceeded to back the 26 changes revealed by Hun Sen earlier this month, which also included several new secretaries of state.
Speaking last night, CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said though the party had reached a general consensus to vote against the motion, individuals were free to vote as they wished.
He did not reveal the dissenting pair.
Chhay described the new cabinet as a slight improvement but noted the administration’s upper-most level had ballooned to nearly 250 people.
“This isn’t even counting undersecretaries of state and advisers,” Chhay said.
Only two portfolio ministers, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Im Chhun Lim, have retired from their posts.
The two new faces at the ministerial level are Veng Sakhon, formerly a secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, who will take over the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Pan Sorasok, who will be elevated from a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to its minister.
The other affected portfolios – foreign affairs, rural development, post and telecommunications, land management, urban planning and construction, cults and religion, and transport and public works – will be taken over by ministers moved from other posts.
Among the new secretaries of state are the former governors of Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces – Chhit Sokhon and Khoy Khun Hour, respectively – who will join the Council of Ministers, and Pam Ham Phan, formerly Ratanakkiri governor, who joins the Interior Ministry.
Ex-Pailin governor and former bodyguard of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot Y Chhean and former Svay Rieng provincial governor Cheang Am will also be promoted to the rank at the Defence Ministry.