The government on Tuesday approved changes to duties and responsibilities of its senior leadership, merely three months after King Norodom Sihamoni removed Nhem Vanda from his positions as Senior Minister and First Vice-President of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).
Vanda was dismissed for “lacking responsibility and telling a lie” following the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville, which left 28 people dead and 26 injured in June. Four Chinese nationals were detained over the tragedy, with the building’s owner charged with involuntary manslaughter and causing bodily harm.
Vanda was replaced by Senior Minister Kun Kim.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the reshuffle was normal and in line with the government’s ongoing reforms.
“We make the changes because some vacancies need to be filled, including the one left by His Excellency Nhem Vanda. It’s nothing unusual. Officials are to be reshuffled from time to time. Their duties and responsibilities are to be divided to meet the goals set by the top leadership,” he said.
A directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday officially appointed Kim as NCDM first vice-president.
“His Excellency Kun Kim, the Senior Minister in charge of veterans and people with disabilities, is to carry out duties assigned by the prime minister,” said the directive.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said such reshuffles are routinely made by the government during its five-year mandate.
“It is normal to reshuffle the government . . . nothing unusual. Vacancies need to be filled, so when one is removed from a position, somebody will have to take over. It is standard procedure for appointment and assignment of duties. It is made official with such a directive,” he said.
On June 24, King Norodom Sihamoni issued two separate Royal Decrees, with one stripping Vanda of his Senior Minister in charge of Special Missions and the other appointing him as an adviser to the government, the rank still equivalent of a senior minister.
The prime minister first announced Vanda’s fall from grace in his June 24 Facebook post. Citing reasons for his removal, Hun Sen said Vanda was busy sleeping in Kampot province while the rescue and operations teams were busy discovering victims trapped under the rubble of the building.
Vanda declined to comment on Wednesday.