PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned government officials on Wednesday to avoid granting unjustified promotions for personal or partisan reasons.
Presiding over a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen chided the Funcinpec party, former coalition partners with his own Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), for rampant nepotism and partisanship during the parties’ power-sharing arrangement from 1993-1997.
“Do not intervene for promotions – today there are a number of our civil servants who have been promoted to their positions because of the influence of others,” Hun Sen said, vowing to stamp out this practice.
Hun Sen singled out former Funcinpec secretary general Nhek Bun Chhay and former education minister Kol Pheng for their pursuit of greater power within the coalition.
“I nearly dropped blood from my eye to see [Funcinpec] demanding to share the position of education minister when they held just 20 percent of votes, but I shared nearly 50 percent” of government positions, Hun Sen said.
In response to the remarks, Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said nepotism and partisanship originated primarily from the CPP, and called on Hun Sen to target those both inside and outside his party whose work is compromised by conflicts of interest.
“We would be happy to see the wishes of the prime minister become true, but the fact is now that land-grabbing, corruption, nepotism and partisanship are committed by the powerful members of the ruling CPP,” Yim Sovann said.
Hun Sen also alluded briefly to the conviction of SRP president Sam Rainsy last month of destruction of property and racial incitement in connection with an October protest in which he uprooted wooden markers on the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province.
“Going to uproot the posts, going to take someone’s land, violating the law, it is difficult,” Hun Sen said, without mentioning Sam Rainsy by name, and adding that he did not mean to “insult anyone indirectly”.
The prime minister’s comments came just one day after the release of a survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) that stated in part that Cambodians would like to see their leaders focus more on the development of the country and less on political spats.
Those hoping to unseat the ruling CPP would do well to keep this point in mind, IRI country director John Willis said Wednesday.
“I think the opposition is effectively being distracted from talking about the issues that voters care about – jobs, health care, the economy,
farmland,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE