The National Assembly on Thursday made official the highly publicized sacking of
ex-Minister of Tourism Lay Prohas and voted to appoint a member of the ruling
party in his place.
Prohas was replaced by CPP stalwart Thong Kon, 56, a
one-time Deputy Chairman of the municipal People's Revolutionary Party of
Kampuchea, and a high-ranking Ministry of Tourism (MOT) official since 1993.
Nhiek Kim Chhon, brother of Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhek Bun Chhay,
was named deputy minister.
Just a week ago, Lay Prohas stood at the helm
of the $2-billion dollar tourism industry. Today, he is unemployed: his
political party won't comment on his whereabouts and his wife told the Post he
has "not carrying a mobile phone anymore."
It's been a rapid fall for the
media-savvy 42-year-old, and political analysts are scrambling to explain what
went wrong. A source close to the government, who declined to be named, told the
Post that Prohas' dismissal was caused by his inability to get along with
members of the CPP.
Hun Sen, however, couched Prohas' replacement in
terms of what was best for the ministry and the Kingdom. Poverty reduction and
national progress drove the decision, not politics, said the Prime
Hun Sen also tried to dismiss speculation that the coalition
government between the CPP and Funcinpec had finally come completely
"If we put an end to the alliance between the CPP and Funcinpec,
perhaps all the Funcinpec ministers, secretaries and undersecretaries would walk
out," Hun Sen said. "You see now - ministers and secretaries and
undersecretaries and the deputy Prime Minister-are all still
Members of Funcinpec hardly sounded so sanguine about the latest
turn of events.
Funcinpec Vice-President Prince Sisowath Sirirath told
the Post on May 17 that these days, Funcinpec could do little more than maintain
smooth cooperation with its ruling partner.
"We respect that all the
power is in the hands of Samdech Hun Sen," Sirirath said. "There is no quota in
the coalition government now."
Prohas was appointed as tourism minister
in 2004. The number of foreign tourists to the kingdom has grown to 1.7 million
in 2006, a 20 percent rise over 2005.
Ky Lum Ang, Funcinpec
parliamentarian said that it was difficult for her to make comment about the
removal of Prohas in the circumstances of the political situation at the
She said that the Prime Minister told Funcinpec senior officials
that Lay Prohas may be appointed as an advisor of the government.
Rainsy, President of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said that the reshuffle was an
internal issue of the CPP and Funcinpec, which the SRP was not interest
"We have seen that the role of Funcinpec in the coalition government
is being weak," Rainsy told the Post. "I don't believe that the reshuffle will
help to improve the working system of the government."
Thong Khon told
reporters that he is determined to strengthen the tourism industry by enhancing
cooperation with the private sector.
"We want Cambodia to become one of
the tourism destinations for the region and for the whole world," he said,
adding that he will work harder to get the tourism management law to be passed
by the National Assembly.
Khon said that in the first quarter of this
year, Cambodia attracted about 500,000 foreign tourists, while infrastructure,
the road systems, the airports and the government continue to be improved.