Six senior police officials were last week promoted to the rank of four-star general, the highest possible title bestowed to a member of the security forces by the Ministry of Interior.
All of the men are members of the CPP’s central committee, which prompted observers to question the impartiality of the elevated generals.
According to a royal decree signed on February 19, among those promoted is secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs Meas Virith, Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Choun Sovann, deputy National Police commissioner Chhay Sinarith and National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith.
The remaining officials are Sous Ang Kea and Thong Lim. “We are very happy that we have been given the trust of the leaders and government that requested to promote the rank for us,” Virith said yesterday.
Asked if he could remain neutral as both high-ranking representative of the security force and a member of the CPP’s central committee, Virith said he was dedicated to protecting civilians.
“I do not have anything to elaborate about this point, but most [importantly] we work hard to serve the nation and people.”
Neither the recently elevated National Police spokesman nor Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could be reached for comment yesterday.
Am Sam Ath, a senior coordinator at rights group Licadho, said that the government had handed out far too many such promotions over time in order to shore up party support.
“Most of them are members of the central committee of the ruling party and they will play major role in supporting the party in the upcoming election,” he said.
With a spate of violent crimes being reported over the past few months, Sam Ath questioned the timing of the promotions and cast doubt over whether the selections were based on merit.
“Sometimes the promotion causes other armed force member to get upset and discouraged when they see that they have worked hard to help the nation, but they do not get promoted,” he said.
San Chey, executive director at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, saw the latest promotions as “not proactive”.
He said that investigations into violent crackdowns by security forces relating to post-election garment protests had yet to be resolved.
The promotions “will not be appreciated by citizens”, who are still looking for answers from security forces, he said.
“In my opinion it is not the right time for the Ministry of Interior to promote an official like this,” he said.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Additional reporting Daniel de Carteret