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

  • Chinese ‘prank’ threat video is no joke for Cambodia

    ‘Preah Sihanouk province, in the next three years, whether safe or chaotic, will be under my control,” declared a Chinese man in a white T-shirt, as another 19 men stood behind him shirtless, in a video that went viral on social media last month. After the

  • Woman detained for murder of hairdresser over unpaid $1K debt

    A woman has been held in connection with the murder of a 40-year-old widow. The victim’s daughter claims the motive was the suspect’s unpaid four million riel ($1,000) debt to her mother. The 17-year-old girl, Pich Sievmey, said her mother, Koem Yaneang, a hairdresser

  • ABA reports $71.8M net profit

    ABA Bank, a member of the National Bank of Canada group, recorded a net profit of $71.8 million last year, up 55 per cent from $46.2 million in 2017, its annual report released on Monday stated. A rise in the bank’s loan portfolio and the expansion of stated

  • Cambodia, Singapore to ‘move on’ from Lee remarks storm

    Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam have agreed to move on from the controversy caused by remarks from Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and follow the path of cooperation, dialogue and friendship. The foreign ministers of the three countries had separate telephone conversations on Friday