A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official has denied that nepotism was involved in the appointment of the current Phnom Penh Municipality spokesman Long Dimanche to the position of ambassador to South Korea, despite the new ambassador being the son of a senior official at the ministry.
Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry dismissed the idea that Secretary of State Long Visalo—Long Dimanche’s father—had influenced the decision. He told VOA Khmer on Monday that Long Visalo was not aware of the appointment before it was publicly announced.
“There have been many questions about this, and I already said in fact His Excellency Long Visalo was not aware about the appointment,” he said. “He didn’t know about it.”
Long Dimanche, who said he was still waiting for his appointment to be approved by the South Korean government, declined to respond to the question of nepotism.
“I am meeting guests right now,” he said when asked if his father had secured him the appointment. “Sorry, let’s talk again later.”
Analyst and researcher Kem Ley said the appointment of high-ranking government officials was generally conducted in a manner designed to protect the ruling party and powerful families.
“Generally we see any appointment involves connections, not the ability of the appointee,” he said. “There are a lot of persons with high ability in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
The appointment could cause friction with other capable officials at the Seoul Embassy, he added.
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony agreed that appointments within families appeared to be commonplace in Cambodia’s government.
“Those holding leading roles in many ministries always try to have their children appointed, thus it upsets many officials in different ministries,” he said, noting that the promotion from City Hall spokesman to an important diplomatic posting was incongruous.
South Korea is a major investor in Cambodia and a close diplomatic partner. The ambassador also takes responsibility over issues involving the many Cambodian migrant workers in the country.
The ministry’s spokesman, Chum Sounry, said Long Dimanche was qualified for the role, insisting that all appointments were based on the characteristics of the individual.
“This is the qualification for which our leadership sought to appoint ambassador in South Korea,” he said. “It has nothing to do with other factors such as blood lines.”
He added that Long Dimanche has a master’s degree in International Relations from a university in France.
Long Dimanche will replace Suth Dina, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit on April 4. He was accused of corruption and exploiting his position for personal gain, and faces 15 years in prison if found guilty.