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Assembly Approves CPP-Dominant Cabinet

A freshly sworn-in National Assembly on Thursday voted in Prime Minister Hun Sen's executive cabinet, granting as expected all top posts to those loyal to the Cambodian People's Party and spreading lower-level ministry positions among CPP and Funcinpec.

The entire cabinet was approved in a package vote that critics say defied the checks and balances of the National Assembly's right to singularly approve cabinet nominations.

"The fourth legislative government has a duty to push the development and push deeply and widely the implementation of reforms in all fields for prosperity and progress," Hun Sen told the assembled lawmakers.

Missing from the National Assembly's first session were 26 Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers, who attended a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday but boycotted the session Thursday.

Also absent Thursday were three Human Rights Party officials who were elected in July but refused to be sworn in Wednesday. The three officials have said they hope to request a separate swearing-in ceremony after the Pchum Ben festival, which ends Sept. 30.

Both parties have protested the election results from July, where the CPP won 90 of 123 National Assembly seats.

Thursday's appointments marked the formation of the largest cabinet for the government to date, with 248 positions. Some positions had to be added to the government to accommodate former opposition members who joined the CPP ahead of the elections.

"The Human Rights Party disagrees with the new government's composition, which has a bigger head than body," HRP President Kem Sokha said. "So the Human Rights Party did not join the National Assembly meeting."

No ministry positions were given to the Sam Rainsy, Human Rights, or Norodom Ranariddh parties.

But the Norodom Ranariddh Party had one cause to celebrate Thursday: King Norodom Sihamoni announced he would grant a royal pardon to the exiled leader of the party, Prince Ranariddh, following a request from Hun Sen. Prince Ranariddh left Cambodia in early 2007 and was found guilty in absentia of breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of 18 months and a fine of $150,000.

In a letter to the king and prime minister, Prince Ranariddh said he planned to return Sept. 28, in time to participate in Pchum Ben festivities.

Nine deputy prime minister positions were approved, including one position for Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay, as well as 16 senior minister posts, 26 ministers and 196 secretaries of state.

The ministries of Rural Development, Transportation, Education, Health, Culture lost Funcinpec leaders.

Among those promoted, former Phnom Penh governor Chea Sophara, was given minister of Rural Development.

The 26 new CPP ministers follow: Council Minister, Sok An; Interior, Sar Kheng; Defense, Tea Banh; Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong; Economy and Finance, Keat Chhon; Agriculture, Chan Sarun; Rural Development, Chea Sophara; Commerce, Cham Prasidh; Industry, Suy Sem; Planning, Chay Thon; Education, Em Sithy; Social Affairs, Ith Samheng; Urbanization, Em Chhun Lim; Environment, Mok Mareth; Water Resources, Lim Keanhor; Information, Khieu Kanharith; Justice, Ang Vong Vathana; Inspection, Som Kimsuor; Telecommunications, So Khun; Health, Mom Bunheng; Public Works and Transport, Trang Iv Tek; Culture and Fine Arts, Him Chem; Tourism, Thong Khon; Cults and Religion, Men Khin; Women's Affairs, Ing Kantha Thavy; Labor and Vocation, Vong Soth.