Seemingly ending his ambitions for the province’s top job, Sihanoukville’s city governor will next week be out of provincial politics altogether, amid criticisms of his performance by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.
In the latest leadership change for the province, where a spike in violent crime this year linked to Russian and European “gangsters” saw the government replace the provincial police chief in April, Chin Sarin, 55, will be transferred to the Interior Ministry.
The shuffle was revealed by a sub-decree released yesterday, which stated that 31-year-old Y Sokleng, currently deputy governor of Prampi Makara district in Phnom Penh, would be sworn in as Sarin’s replacement at a ceremony next Friday afternoon.
The transfer order, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 24, comes a month after Sarin’s request to become Preah Sihanouk provincial governor was leaked to the press, along with handwritten criticism of his performance by Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
In his June 23 application, Sarin pointed to his “sacrifices” to “serve people” and his career credentials, including posts in the army, navy and police and a stint in the Senate as a secretary of state and personal adviser to late CPP president Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Please … Sar Kheng allow me to serve … as provincial governor as the last mandate of my working life,” wrote Sarin, who became Preah Sihanouk deputy governor in 2006 and Sihanoukville governor in 2009.
However, scribbled on the letter is a note atop Sar Kheng’s signature: “per information, this official is tricky and receives adverse reaction.”
Speaking yesterday, Sarin said the transfer was “normal” and “a matter for the ministry’s leader”. “It’s normal when changing from one place to another,” Sarin said.
In April – following a string of beatings, stabbings and shootings – Sar Kheng replaced former Sihanoukville provincial police chief Seang Kosal with Chuon Narin, then Phnom Penh municipal police deputy chief, who promised to crack down on crime.
However, crime – including the murder this month of a Russian man – continues to trouble local residents, said Douglas McColl head of the Sihanoukville Tourism Association.
Backed by seven years of experience, Sokleng, who has also worked in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, said safety would be his first priority.
“It will be a big challenge for me in the new town of foreign tourists,” he said. “I will first look at security and public order in the city to make it a safe place for tourists.”