The National Assembly approved Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rejig of the council of ministers, the second such change since 2016, which saw four senior Cambodian People’s Party members sidelined for newer faces.
The prime minister had sent a letter on Friday asking the National Assembly to approve the four changes to his cabinet, which was duly approved by the CPP-controlled lower house.
Speaking to reporters after the National Assembly session, Hun Sen refused to give any explanations for the changes, except to say the changes were needed to improve the working of the ministries.
Of the new ministers, the biggest change was seen at the Ministry of Justice, where Ang Vong Vathana was replaced by the ministry’s secretary of state Koeut Rith, who had played a significant role during the 2014 negotiations with the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, following the contested 2013 elections.
Despite featuring in the Panama Papers for being linked to an offshore entity, Ang Vong Vathana had survived removal from office a few years ago. Vathana had held the position since 2004.
Additionally, secretary of state Prum Sokha replaced Pich Bunthin as Minister of Public Service; Chea Vandeth, a Takeo lawmaker who replaced Sok Ann, replaced Tram Iv Tek as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications; and Chhit Sokhon, former Preah Sihanouk governor and current-secretary of state at Council of Ministers, takes over as Minister of Religion and Cult from Him Chhem.
The four outgoing ministers were promoted to be senior ministers, with long-standing Hun Sen ally Cham Prasidh appointed as Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation, which was recently rejigged to add the last three portfolios.
Hun Sen added that outgoing ministers were capable but had become “old” and that his government needed “active” ministers who could do timely work.
“They are old and they need to sleep more," he said. "We can't force them to work and to work without thinking about their health," he said.
Ou Chanrith, a former lawmaker with the CNRP, said that the reshuffle is “ordinary and good thing” but questioned the effectiveness of these changes.
“Previously, there were reshuffles, but I didn’t see any effective work,” he said. “We should allow highly capable people who have integrity, are qualified and ethical,” he said.
Preap Kol, the outgoing executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said he welcomed the change in the Ministry of Justice that had long underperformed, to the detriment of the Cambodian people.
“People are disappointed with the social injustice, land disputes and consistent corruption in the judicial system,” he said.