Prime Minister Hun Sen in February minted more than 400 new generals in yet another round of mass military promotions, which one observer characterised as a “loyalty scheme” deployed as elections approach.
According to a royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni and dated February 27, 434 army colonels have been made brigadier generals, while four members of Cambodia’s navy also received one star.
The promotions are part of an initiative to elevate soldiers who have served since before 1979, the decree states.
The new batch is in addition to more than 550 new general stars handed out in the last year, further swelling the Royal Cambodian Armed Force’s upper echelons, estimated to have between 2,000 and 3,000 generals.
Speaking yesterday, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said the promotions, which come with a $13 monthly salary bump, according to recent wage figures, showed the military’s gratitude for the troops’ service and sacrifice in helping to topple the Khmer Rouge.
“We do not consider it related to the election. We promoted them because they have struggled for a long time,” said Socheat, who could not recall how many generals RCAF now employed.
Jon Grevatt, a regional defence analyst for IHS Jane’s, said the premier was deploying a long-used tactic to secure support as elections approached.
“As Cambodia moves towards this critical juncture, these types of loyalty schemes will likely increase as a way for Hun Sen to maintain his hold on power,” Grevatt said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON