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Promotions of Military Commanders Criticized

Thai army commander Tarakorn Thammavinthon, seated second right, gestures during a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart at the disputed Cambodia-Thai border in Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday promoted dozens of high-ranking officers, a move criticized by the opposition as inappropriate following deadly crackdowns on protesters last month.

At least four people were killed and dozens injured after security forces fired on demonstrators during labor protests in early January. No one has been arrested or reprimanded following the incident.

However, Defense Minister Tea Banh said Thursday the promotions were timely and not related to the shootings. “Their work must be recognized for their contributions to the country,” he said.

The promoted officers include one secretary of state for the ministry, 10 undersecretaries of state, seven deputy commanding generals, and others, including in the navy and air force. In total, the ministry promoted 29 four-star generals.

Yem Ponharith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said not only is the timing ill-suited to Cambodia’s current political climate, but Cambodia’s armed forces are already top-heavy with commanders. “There are too many generals in Cambodia,” he said. “And secondly, Cambodia is dealing with human rights and rule of law issues.”

Thursday’s ceremony follows the promotion of six new four-star generals within the police ranks, as well.

Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst, said such promotions reinforce power structures and bolster support for the current administration.