Removal of army chief and wholesale promotions 'routine'
Former RCAF commander-in-chief Ke Kim Yan shown here in a file photograph.
IN the wake of Thursday's major reshuffle of the Kingdom's top brass, senior military figures have told the Post the changes are routine, dismissing widespread speculation of a political purge.
"It is normal for leadership to change, and it is important to constantly strive to improve the leadership of the army," Defence Minister Tea Banh said Sunday.
A royal decree, signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday, promoted eight generals - all of whom are well-known loyalists of Prime Minister Hun Sen - to senior RCAF positions.
General Ke Kim Yan, a loyalist of CPP President Chea Sim, was terminated from his position as commander-in-chief of RCAF, with his deputy, General Pol Saroeun, being bumped up to the post.
Seven officers have been promoted to the post of deputy commander-in-chief, including General Kun Kim, Meas Sophea, Mol Roeup, Chea Dara, Hing Bun Heang, Ung Samkhan and Sao Sokha.
In a nationally televised speech Saturday, during the swearing-in of the new officers, Tea Banh said that the outgoing chief was in support of the reshuffle.
"The transfer of power is going on smoothly," Tea Banh said.
Chea Vannath, an independent analyst, said that the upheaveals within the armed forces had resulted in rampant public speculation about internal divisions within the ruling party.
"There is no explanation ... and we lack information about whether those individuals are involved in land grabbing, illegal logging, or have lost the faith of their political party," she said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that the removal or promotion of generals was not an effective way to reform the military, which would remain stagnant while officers remained members of the ruling party.
"I think that a routine reshuffle of the highest level of the armed forces was a way of strengthening loyalists," he said. "This is a reform stemming from an internal dispute in the CPP."