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PM points finger at corrupt army chiefs

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday warned of harsh sanctions for soldiers and military commanders involved in illegal businesses, identifying several officials by name who he said were guilty of corruption.

Speaking at the conclusion of a conference on military reform, held at the Ministry of Defence, Hun Sen said even high-ranking officers were not immune from the government’s effort to expose unlawful activity, calling this effort essential to plans discussed at the conference for military reform over the next five years.

“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” Hun Sen said. “In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”

Hun Sen identified several generals who said were guilty of corruption: Sum Samnang, director-general of logistics and finance at the Ministry of Defence; Chao Phirun, director-general of the military’s materials and technical services department; Ung Samkhan, commander of the
Cambodian Navy; and Chhoeun Chanthan, chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguards.

The premier also acknowledged that many soldiers were involved in illegal activities including logging, land grabbing, smuggling and illegal fishing. “I declare my absolute order [to stop illegal businesses] -- otherwise military reform will not move forward,” Hun Sen said.

Following the passage of the Kingdom’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law, Hun Sen said, all government officials and politicians will be required to disclose their assets to a permanent committee to fight corruption, which will be housed at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces headquarters in the capital’s Daun Penh district. A draft of the Anticorruption Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in December, and is likely to be passed by the National Assembly in April.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said he was pleased to hear the prime minister address the issue of land grabbing by the armed forces.“What I am happy about is that he acknowledged past misdeeds,” Yim Sovann said, adding that the SRP’s recommendations on these issues had been ignored for years.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, called for Hun Sen’s recommendations to be put swiftly into action.

“His speech is very good, but we also ask for real implementation … sometimes when we take his speech to lower levels for implementation, they do not listen,” he said.

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