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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen gives new cabinet its tasks

Hun Sen gives new cabinet its tasks

HUN SEN was voted in as Cambodia's new Prime Minister by a 99-13 majority at the

National Assembly Dec 1, and neither he nor his Funcinpec coalition partners wasted

any time in striking the new cabinet.

The CPP took 15 of the 29 ministries - including most all of those that control the

money; Funcinpec took 14, including most of the difficult social ministries. The

ministries that control the guns - Interior and Defence - are shared.

The CPP has a wealth of experience compared to its Funcinpec partner: 12 of the CPP

appointees have already had ministerial positions, whereas Funcinpec have selected

six new faces.

The important Secretary of State positions show an even greater disparity of experience:

23 of Funcinpec's 26 State Secretaries are debutants, compared to just 12 of CPP's

25 appointments.

CPP analysts point out the undisputed strength Hun Sen has demonstrated in his party's

appointments. Nine out of ten of the CPP ministers are Hun Sen loyalists, said one

CPP official, and 60% of these people were directly appointed by Minister of the

Council of Ministers, Sok An.

Among those who lost their cabinet jobs included the ailing Chem Sgnuon (Justice,

CPP) and Ieng Kiet (Transport, Funcinpec), who have been promoted to deputies at

the new Senate, and Ieng Mouly (Information, BLDP), who has been rewarded with a

Prime Ministerial advisory slot. Also out, from Funcinpec, are Tea Chamrath (Defence)

and Nady Tan (Council of Ministers); and three party "splitters" Ung Phan

(Inspection), Pou Sothirak (Industry) and Ung Huot (Foreign Affairs). The CPP has

shed Chhea Thang from Health and Nut Narang from Culture.

It has been a rosy December for Hun Sen. He declared himself a happy man after the

Assembly vote confirming his leadership - one that went according to the pre-arranged

plan struck with Funcinpec leader Prince Rana-riddh.

The Prince has meanwhile been ensconsed as Assembly president, reunited with assets

such as his house, his cars and planes that he had previously thought lost, and heading

a party now contentedly benefitting from the CPP's largesse.

Ranariddh was reportedly as happy with the situation as Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy began his tenure as opposition leader by calling the government a disaster.

Rainsy later began firing out press releases calling Hun Sen, among other things,

a dictator.

On Dec 3 Hun Sen decreed that senior civil servants could no longer import duty-free

cars, which has traditionally been a coveted and rich perk of the job, and later

the same week sacked 100 of his advisers.

Virtually every player in the international community jockeyed for the best place

in the queue to congratulate the new Prime Minister and his team, although ASEAN

did put a damper on the party by hesitating on confirming Cambodia's membership.

However, key ASEAN members Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines all said they would

support - or, at least, not block - Cambodia's membership, which will be discussed

today in Hanoi.

The US said it was happy with the new coalition and on Dec 7 the UN Credentials Committee

signalled Cambodia could re-take its UN seat that has been vacant since July 1997,

subject to a successful General Assembly vote.

Hun Sen's inaugral speech at the National Assembly Nov 30 detailed the government's

new platform.

It boiled down to wide-spread reforms of the civil service, the judiciary, police

and military, and - the primary goal, the new leader said - of revamping the management

of Cambodia's economy.

Hun Sen said judges' salaries will be increased and every court verdict should be

recorded and, if a verdict was found to be corrupted, the judge disciplined.

Corruption won't be tolerated, he said, and an "anti-corruption institution"

will be set up to "mete out severe punishment on all levels of corrupt officials".

The army and police will change, Hun Sen said, to be faithful, disciplined, clean,

moralistic, modest, and respectful and full of love for the people.

The RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan later said that would cost around $70m.

Hun Sen spoke lengthily of the new government's commitment to human rights, including

the freedom of the press and the right of opposition parties to operate - noting,

however, that people must "avoid mistaking freedom for anarchy".



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