The King has signed off on promotions for more than 300 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officers in December and January, including at least six generals who recently joined the ruling CPP’s Central Committee.
The mass military promotion – the second so far this year – brings the number of new generals minted over the past 11 months to nearly 800.
According to the most recent Royal Book, three officers were promoted to four-star general, 13 were promoted to three-star general and 114 were promoted to two-star general. Another 178 were promoted to one-star general.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan defended the promotions of the CPP Central Committee members as “normal”, and said they were made at the request of the army.
“When people become members of the Central Committee, it means that they have achievements and enough qualifications,” Eysan said, explaining that the ruling party tries to promote standout members in government roles.
“This gives them encouragement,” he said.
Political analysts have criticised Cambodia’s regular mass military promotions as nepotistic and a way of currying political favour, with insiders estimating as many as 3,000 generals in the RCAF ranks.
By way of comparison, the number of generals in the US military – one of the largest in the world – is capped by law at 653.
Last month, Defence Minister Tea Banh admitted military promotions have not always been “evaluated transparently”.
Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defence industry analyst for military publication IHS Jane’s, said Hun Sen appeared to be strengthening his power base amid a tense political climate.
“He probably has concerns that there could be other political uprisings or groups willing to challenge his authority, and he needs the military on his side,” Grevatt said.
The three newly minted four-star generals – Mey Morn Dary, Uy Sarin and Dam Dararith – all became members of the CPP Central Committee in January, according to a list released after the party’s annual congress.
Three of the newly minted three-star generals – Khieu Sophat, Thiep Horn and Hean Sovann – were also among the new party inductees.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chum Socheat could not be reached yesterday.
However, former CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy, who worked on defence issues for the now-dissolved opposition party, said the inflated promotions were a longstanding hallmark of the Cambodian armed forces. “This is to encourage people to protect the government’s interests and to protect its power,” Channy said.
Additional reporting by Daphne Chen