The government has approved yet another round of mass military promotions, elevating 84 officers to brigadier general, 43 to major general and five to lieutenant general.
The promotions were announced in the January and February editions of the Royal Book and add to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ already-bloated upper echelons, which are believed to have as many as 3,000 generals.
Reached yesterday by phone, Defence Minister Tea Banh defended the promotions, despite having himself frozen them in 2011 while acknowledging there was a gap between some officers rank and experiences.
But asked about the issue yesterday, Banh said of the promotions, “What’s wrong with it?”
The only problem with the practice, he continued, was “bad people who say [there is a problem] and who do not give honour to people who work and serve the nation”.
“The people who have been promoted, they have good achievements, serve the nation . . . There is also a specific period and seniority” that must be attained before promotion, he added.
However, Defence Ministry insiders have, in recent interviews, described a widespread sense of embarrassment, particularly among younger officers, over the inflation in RCAF’s upper ranks.
Older officers too, under cover of anonymity, criticised the generous handing out of stars, which they associated with money and connections.
Some 500 new generals have been minted in the past year alone – including one who was among the three members of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit convicted of a brutal assault on two opposition lawmakers.
Am Sam Ath, of rights group Licadho, yesterday criticised the military for giving promotions and pay bumps to soldiers who have cracked down on demonstrations.
As many analysts have observed in the past, the practice should be seen through a political lens, Sam Ath said.
“Compared to other countries, we have too many stars . . . [but] this is one part of [the strategy] for upcoming elections, to ensure officers fulfil and follow the government’s orders.”