Prime minister Hun Sen denied on Thursday that nepotism was involved in the recent promotions of the children of senior government officials. He said they had been “trained” and were entirely capable of carrying out their duties while being open to “punishment” like anyone else.
Suy Dimanche, the son of the Minister of Mines and Energy, Suy Sem, was appointed the ministry’s joint secretary of state through a November 3 royal decree.
In September last year, Sar Thet, the nephew of Interior Minister Sar Kheng, was promoted from Battambang provincial police chief to deputy commissioner of the National Police.
Speaking at a ceremony to honour 406 grade A high school students at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Hun Sen, who is president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said such promotions were based purely on ability.
“We promoted our children. But they are people and also officials in government or the military. [Critics] say we [have promoted them] to strengthen power. We just sent them for training. If this was not to improve their capabilities, why would we train them?"
“Should we just give them up? As they can do their jobs, the children of senior officials received [additional] training. What else should we do with them?” he asked.
Hun Sen’s eldest son Manet has been promoted repeatedly and recently became the second most powerful person in the military after assuming the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. He is also the commander of the army’s infantry.
In October, Hun Sen hinted that Manet could succeed him as the next prime minister “if he were elected”.
Hun Sen’s other sons are Manith and Mani. Manith was promoted in August last year to director-general at the Ministry of National Defence’s General Directorate of Intelligence.
His youngest son Mani is currently a CPP lawmaker for Kampong Speu province.
“I have just a few nieces and nephews who are working as officials, including Hun Chea who [spent time] in Prey Sar prison,” Hun Sen said.
Chea is a nephew of the prime minister and a three-star lieutenant general. He was sentenced in May to 18 months in prison after being arrested over a shooting incident near his house in Phnom Penh.
Officials divulged few details about the incident. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Chea appeared to have “shot into the air” but said no one was hurt.
In his speech, Hun Sen said, he was willing to punish his relatives just like anybody else who broke the law.
“[Chea] was involved in a shooting [incident], which is banned by law. He is my nephew but we do not allow [incidents] like this [and] we must punish our relatives and children the same way we punish others. I am willing to bring food for them to eat in prison. The law is the law."
“[Likewise] those who are capable are the ones to get the jobs. It is like an exam,” he told the students.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director, San Chey, said on Thursday that he was not opposed to the promotion of capable officials, but warned that the promotion of those who work with their parents could result in “conflicts of interest”.
“I think the promotion of capable persons to serve public affairs is not wrong. But the government should think about conflicts of interest, which could impact governance of the institutions,” he said.