The Ministry of National Defence has removed Lieutenant Colonel Pheng Vannak from his post in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) for allegedly violating its general statute after saying he had admitted to misconduct, a statement released on Wednesday by Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said.
Vannak, who is considered a Facebook celebrity, became embroiled in controversy after he repeatedly thumbed his nose at convention.
First, he contributed money to the funeral of analyst Kem Ley in 2016. This resulted in his detention in Prey Sar prison.
Then, earlier this year, he was detained again for trying to do the same at the funeral of 16-year-old student Dum Rida, who died in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district.
He was also sued for $500,000 by Fresh News in April over his allegation that the news organisation only reported on cases it was paid for.
Commenting on his removal, Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia told The Post: “Pheng Vannak behaves like a Facebook activist. If we discuss the principles of neutrality or the civil service, it is [prohibited] to act against such interests.
“For example, sharing confidential information or internal principles to outsiders will result in being sacked from the institution. It is normal.”
Vannak had previously served as a lieutenant colonel at the personnel office of the Ministry of National Defence.
He told The Post yesterday that he did not feel remorse because he had acknowledged all of his past mistakes since being convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on several cases.
Vannak said he would immediately delete an online post if it said something “wrong”.
“I have served the nation from 1988 to 2019, when I was removed from the [RCAF] framework. I have served the nation and her people for 31 years. I was most proud when I was a soldier.
“I never treated the people badly or made them cry. I do not regret this loss. As long as I can still breathe, I still have hope.
“There’s still a lot of work that I must do to serve the people, even though I am no longer an official,” Vannak told The Post.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court released him from pre-trial detention in June after sentencing him to one year in prison with all but two months and 15 days suspended.
He wrote a letter to Hun Sen before his release to confess his guilt and apologise.
In it, Vannak expressed his regret for his “improper act” and said it had resulted from his fiery temper, which had made him forget to properly consider his actions.
He was also ordered to pay compensation of 200 riel to Fresh News.
“I will always remember this guilt and I promise I will change my attitude and my words, and I will not allow this to happen again,” he wrote.