Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen has change of heart on official's firing

Hun Sen has change of heart on official's firing

Yesterday Hun Sen issued a sub-decree outlining the demotion of Mom Sovanna (pictured) before rescinding the order in the afternoon. Photo supplied
Yesterday Hun Sen issued a sub-decree outlining the demotion of Mom Sovanna (pictured) before rescinding the order in the afternoon. Photo supplied

Hun Sen has change of heart on official's firing

An Interior Ministry official who drew public outrage after video emerged of him belittling a traffic cop found himself sacked yesterday, only to be restored to his former position in the span of a few hours thanks to a change of heart by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Lieutenant General Mam Srim Vanna’s predicament began on Tuesday afternoon when he was pulled over by Phnom Penh traffic officer Soth Kantha, who tried to give him a ticket.

In the argument that ensued, Srim Vanna, a deputy director at the Immigration Department, pulled rank on his junior, dismissively referring to Kantha as “ar police”, using a derogatory word most often aimed at children.

The incident first came to light after Kantha posted the incident to social media, saying he had been suspended after Srim Vanna called his superiors to complain, an assertion publicly denied by municipal traffic police chief Chev Hak.

The fallout eventually made its way to the office of the prime minister, who yesterday morning issued a sub-decree dismissing Srim Vanna from his position – but allowing him to keep his rank.

Hun Sen posted the decision on his Facebook account, noting that Vanna’s language disrespected all traffic police and that he should know better as a police officer himself. But he also wrote that if Vanna acknowledged his mistake and changed his ways, the Ministry of Interior could request to appoint him to a suitable new position.

Comments on the prime minister’s post – which as of press time had nearly 6,100 shares and 28,000 likes – began flooding in, both for and against the firing. By late afternoon, a softening Hun Sen was suggesting the two could meet to solve the problem face to face.

Shortly thereafter, they did just that, meeting at the Peace Palace, where they were photographed shaking hands and calling it a day, before the premier returned to Facebook to nullify the earlier sub-decree.

Chev Hak, chief of the municipal traffic police bureau, yesterday blamed the embarrassing incident on the capricious nature of the internet, saying that the heated argument had already been solved, “but because [it was] posted on social media, it stirred up again”.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-East Asia and the Pacific representative San Chey said the prime minister had been “too quick” to insert himself into the situation and should have let the Interior Ministry handle the punishment.

The premier, perhaps predictably, saw things a little differently. “This is changing a lose-lose situation that happened in the past to a win-win situation . . . and there is no need to place the punishment, as both officers helped to create the culture of reconciliation and solidarity,” the premier said after reversing his decision.

As for Srim Vanna, the focus of his gratitude was clear.

“I am very happy and thankful that Samdech [Hun Sen] forgave me.”

MOST VIEWED

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh