The Prime Minister Hun Sen-led Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which many consider as having already won July’s national elections with no major rival in sight, is planning to bring influential senior military officials into the Kingdom’s legislature by nominating them as candidates, an act seen by one analyst as a scheme to expand the ruling party’s power in the National Assembly.
The official list of candidates who will be competing in the national elections on July 29 includes senior military and police officials loyal to the CPP, according to a document obtained by The Post.
On the list is Pol Saroeun, a four-star general and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander-in-chief, who has been nominated as the candidate in Preah Sihanouk province. Two other four-star generals, Meas Sophea and Kun Kim, both deputy commanders-in-chief of RCAF, have been nominated for the sole seats in Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces, respectively.
General Chey Son, secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Authority for Chemical Weapons, will also be competing as the third candidate in Svay Rieng province. Lieutenant General Dy Vichea, deputy chief of the National Police and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son-in-law, will be a reserve candidate in Svay Rieng.
Many other candidates from the military and police body will be vying for the seats or be in place as reserve candidates.
Sok Eysan, CPP spokesperson, said the nominations of senior military officials and police officers have been made to best serve the country and people.
“The party [CPP] wants to put up candidates from all fields to serve the country and people,” he said, adding that all those nominated have already taken leave of their job and no longer receive salaries from the state, and were on the CPP’s payroll.
“Those who are working in public or government positions cannot be nominated as representative candidates unless they leave their job. This is the democracy inside the [CPP]. “
Eysan said the nominations should not be seen as a threat or intimidation.
“They will not use guns during the campaign,” he said. “Once they are nominated as the party’s candidates, they are no longer military or police officers.”
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun, who is chief attorney at AMRIN Law and Consultants Group, said military officers can be nominated for representative candidates only after they resign from or are suspended from work.
“Our law is still loose, so they can return to their work upon completion of their obligations [for the party],” he said. “We have kept this culture going on, and we cannot say that what they are doing is illegal.”
Political analyst Meas Nee said he believes it is a CPP strategy to strengthen military power in the legislature.
“I knew for years that this would happen anyway. There are two reasons why this may be the way they are going; I guess it is part of the strategy to replace these elders or old-aged generals with those who might be sympathetic to Hun Manet [the eldest son of Hun Sen and lieutenant general in RCAF] in the army ranks,” Nee said.
“It might also be possible to have more army generals in the parliament so that the structure of militarism can be expanded into the National Assembly and, in such a case, the army will have some power over parliamentarians, then the former military officers can sponsor amendments whereby the army will be guaranteed a number of seats in the National Assembly, like in [Myanmar] even without being elected. Over recent years, I have observed an increase in the number of army generals holding positions as provincial governors.”