On October 13, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee will hold a vote of confidence on the appointment of Dith Tina as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. If secured, Tina will replace Veng Sakhon, who has been appointed as Government Delegate attached to the Prime Minister.
Tina currently holds the position of secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Born on January 7, 1979, in Phnom Penh, Tina is a stalwart of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
After graduating from Preah Sisowath High School in 1994, Tina pursued his studies in France, from 1996 to 2002. He graduated from Ecole Nationale superieure des mines de Paris (now MINES ParisTech) with a diploma in mining engineering. On top of that, he earned a master’s degree in physics from Paris-Sud University – one of France’s most prestigious.
Tina has been employed in the civil service since 2009, first as an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce before being promoted to secretary of state in 2013 and transferred to the energy ministry the following year.
In his decade with the energy ministry, Tina has reportedly been heavily involved in leading put an end to illegal sand dredging from riverbeds. The 43-year-old is also known for leading a working group to formulate a number of policies and laws including, among others, the National Policy on Mineral Resources 2018-2028, the Law on Management of Petroleum and Petroleum Products, and the Law on Geographical Indications.
Although he is very much a citizen of the digital age, Tina rarely uses social media to share his private or professional life, with most stories relating to his professional successes coming from those around him.
Thanks to his knowledge, skill and experiences, many analysts welcomed his nomination, expecting that he would bring new ways of thinking to the role. This would be important to help farmers, ensure the Kingdom’s food security and develop the agriculture sector, they said.
Some prominent agriculture experts said they will closely monitor to see how Tina approaches pressing issues in the sector, and to what extent. Assuming he wins the October 13 vote of confidence, the rest is up to the young appointee.
Veteran agriculture expert Yang Saing Koma welcomes the presumed appointment, saying that he wants to see the new minister display a passion for agriculture in Cambodia that would boost farmers’ livelihoods. He also wants to see Tina’s approaches to food safety issues and the sustainability of natural resources.
Theng Savoeun, director of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer’s Community, said he wants the new minister to address the issues faced by farmers and find long-term solutions for them.
Savoeun has long called on specialists and agriculture organisations to meet with farmers more frequently, hoping that they could find innovative solutions to several problems that have been prolonged for more than 30 years – specifically market access and issues with processed products.
Kith Sothir, one of Tina’s high school friends, said Tina had an excellent relationship with his classmates and was an outstanding student who was always willing to help them.
“He liked making friends, without discrimination. When he saw others struggling, he helped to form study groups that would learn from – and compete with – each other,” he told The Post on October 12.
“I believe that he has the qualifications needed to lead the agricultural sector to prosperity,” he added.
Chea Sokeo, a classmate of Tina from 1991 to 1994 at Phnom Daun Penh School (now Preah Sisowath High School), recalled that Tina was an outstanding student who excelled in all of his subjects, in particular mathematics and science.
“We were in the ‘advanced maths class’ together,” said Sokeo, herself a graduate in Infectious Diseases from the University of Versailles in France and who currently works at the Cambodia-China Friendship Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh.
“With his friends, he was gentle, friendly, and helpful. I cannot remember him losing his temper or lying to his classmates even once.
“He always assisted others, whether classmates or friends from other classes, with their studies and helped solve their problems, however difficult, as he enjoyed challenges,” she added.
Sokeo believed that Tina’s strength came from a combination of factors, including family guidance, personal discipline, self-motivation, an excellent ability to recall facts and his personal intelligence.
She said Tina was a clear-minded, serious person who always analysed any task given to him. He was very careful to divide his time between study and leisure, and not allow himself to be distracted. He was always positive, had good personal discipline, worked hard and made friends with people from all walks of life.
“These are the reasons why he has achieved greater success than his classmates, and gained the trust of the government. I am confident that with his qualities and abilities, he will continue to achieve great successes,” she said, adding that his friendships have always been based on honesty and non-exploitative and non-discriminatory idea.
Penn Sovicheat, a spokesman at the commerce ministry, told The Post that he worked directly with Tina when he served as secretary of state in charge of intellectual property.
“He was well-educated. During his tenure at the ministry, I accompanied him to many meetings abroad. He was outstanding at engaging in technical discussions and debates with both local and international officials – he has an excellent grasp of data and gets along with everyone he deals with,” he said.
He added that Tina was always very friendly with his subordinates.
“With his knowledge and experience – from the ministries of commerce and energy – Tina is an outstanding young official, and I believe he is well-suited to the role of agriculture minister,” he said.
Energy ministry spokesman Yos Monirath told The Post that Tina is a leader who demonstrates a high level of initiative and commitment. He is a team player and does not discriminate based on people’s status or position.
“If he was not both talented and qualified, neither his party nor the government would have faith in him. The fact that the government has requested the National Assembly to cast a vote of confidence on his appointment means a lot.
“He is my leader at the ministry, and from what I have seen, he has the strengths required for the new position,” he added.
Additional reporting by Ry Sochan and May Kunmakara