Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Minister of Toursim 'reshuffled'

Minister of Toursim 'reshuffled'

Minister of Toursim 'reshuffled'

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

Minister.

Hun Sen also tried to dismiss speculation that the coalition

government between the CPP and Funcinpec had finally come completely

unglued.

"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

here."

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

moment.

She said that the Prime Minister told Funcinpec senior officials

that Lay Prohas may be appointed as an advisor of the government.

Sam

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

in.

"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.

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