Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced his intention to overhaul the Council of Ministers, referred to in the Constitution as the “royal government”, by eliminating the position of secretary of state.
According to Article 118 of the Constitution, “The Council of Ministers is the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Council of Ministers shall be headed by a Prime Minister, assisted by Deputy Prime Ministers as well by Senior Ministers, Ministers and Secretaries of State as members.”
Speaking at a graduation ceremony, Hun Sen said he plans to eliminate or reduce the number of secretaries of state, keeping only the ministers, senior ministers and deputy prime ministers, who are the members of the government he leads.
Acknowledging that the royal government has too many bureaucratic layers, Hun Sen said the government would first need to amend the Constitution.
“[T]he 1993 Constitution required the secretary of state to be the member of the government. In fact, the secretary of state is not responsible to the National Assembly and the prime minister [but] only the minister who is the head of the institution,” Hun Sen said.
He said during the drafting of the Constitution in 1993, the framers saw a need to placate a large of number of people representing several different groups and parties. One way to achieve this was by having a bloated senior government.
“When they were setting up the government, they saw hundreds of positions that needed to be available. That’s why we need to amend the Constitution by removing [secretary of state from] members of the royal government,” the prime minister said, adding that changes would be made after July 29’s national elections.
Sam Rainsy, the exiled former president of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, which won 45 percent of the votes in the last national elections, said a government led by his party would have been slashed to a tenth of its current size. He added that the current structure allows for too much corruption.
Political analyst Cham Bun Thet expressed confidence that Prime Minister Hun Sen would be able to implement his reform plan, and that having fewer people in the royal government would make it more effective. This would benefit the nation, the government and the ruling party as well.
“There are a lot of things in the past [Hun Sen] has accomplished. So, I don’t think this would be a difficult thing for him to do,” he said.