Speaking at a Royal School of Administration graduation ceremony, at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged civil servants to serve the people first, and not always wait for his recommendations.
He told the officials not to sit and wait for work to come to them, but instead seek out and resolve issues proactively.
“Management always has problems. The problems will show two types of officials. The first type of official does not take responsibility and always asks for recommendations from the top.
“If something goes wrong, then try to blame lower officials to again avoid responsibility. Officials who do this must be removed from their positions. Since this is the situation, it is time for us to do something about it, whatever the recommendations,” he said.
Hun Sen said the officials served as district and provincial governors, ministers and others – roles that are stipulated in sub-decrees or royal degrees or law. If they have such roles, he said, they should be proactive and seek resolutions for the people.
He said if the official is of the other type – the ones who dare to solve problems with lower officials, then they are the good ones and should be appointed in line with their roles.
The prime minister also issued a warning to officials whose wives or children behaved in an undignified manner but are protected because of the power of their fathers or husbands.
“I know that some wives are dealing with land, and they should be careful and not rely on the protection of their husbands. If the officials’ children or wives did not conduct themselves well, then the officials themselves cannot educate or lead others,” he said.
While he declined to name names, Hun Sen said he got frustrated when he saw some officials allowing their wives and children to behave in an undignified manner. Where there is land, he said, it is the land of a wife of this or that official, which becomes problematic.
“Whatever it is, if we solve problems in the peoples’ interest, it is not wrong. However, if we are biased towards anyone or any other interests, then it is a problem. I call this undignified behaviour. Officials have to remind themselves that they are the servants of the people and not their bosses.
“Officials must not be careless, even for a minute. Bear in mind that we are not the bosses of the people. We are the sincerest servants of the people,” he said.
He asked officials to consider his words as a reminder to protect them as they carry out their duties.
“Officials who display arrogance will see their downfall. This is what happens from my experience, and I have been holding the position of the prime minister for more than 35 years. We have to understand that arrogance shows a lack of morality to the people. It is the thing that the people hate,” he said.
The prime minister added that if officials cause trouble, it causes trouble for himself. He cannot forgive them and must take action. It takes three hours for him to remove provincial governors from their positions and 15 minutes to remove the district governors.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said that the prime minister’s reminder to officials every year did not appear to have much impact as there had been no practical evidence it had been taken on board.
He said the recommendations may make officials think during the ceremony, but in general, they do not see any officials receiving harsh punishments or penalties so he questions whether they follow the recommendations.
“Some officials are worried and afraid. They don’t dare do anything within their roles. This is the attitude that makes officials avoid responsibilities. It is because the top level provides too many recommendations that the lower level doesn’t dare to express their views in case they are different from those of the top.
“Instead they just await recommendations from the top. To be fair, blaming the lower level staff alone is not good. Blaming the top level alone is not good either,” he said.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said that in a state, there have to be the three branches – executive, legislative and judicial.
“The three powers should work to perform checks and balances that stop irregularities and corruption. However, they are not working.
“Therefore, the problems that exist in Cambodia could be caused by the National Assembly, and the fact that it only has one party,” he said.