Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Dith Tina Set to Replace Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon

Dith Tina, the prospective nominee for Minister of Agriculture and current Ministry of Mine and Energy secretary of state, speaks during a press conference in Phnom Penh on June 12, 2015. (CamboJA/Panha Chhorpoan)
Dith Tina, the prospective nominee for Minister of Agriculture and current Ministry of Mine and Energy secretary of state, speaks during a press conference in Phnom Penh on June 12, 2015. (CamboJA/Panha Chhorpoan)

Dith Tina is the prospective nominee for Minister of Agriculture, according to a National Assembly agenda and an October 8 announcement from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Tina, current Ministry of Mine and Energy secretary of state, would replace acting Minister of Agriculture Aun Pornmoniroth, who also serves as Minister of Economy and Finance. Pornmoniroth took over from Veng Sakhon, who was dismissed as Minister of Agriculture by royal decree on October 8. 

Tina, son of the Supreme Court president Dith Munty, will seek endorsement at the National Assembly’s permanent committee meeting scheduled for October 13, 2022, according to a section of the National Assembly meeting agenda shared with CamboJA. If Tina’s nomination is approved by the committee, the National Assembly will later vote to confirm him as Minister of Agriculture.

Tina told CamboJA he would wait until the final decision and declined to comment further.

A photograph of a letter from Hun Sen addressed to National Assembly president Heng Samrin and published on government-aligned media Fresh News also stated: “I would like to ask…the president of the National Assembly to endorse H.E Dith Tina as the Minister of Agriculture.”

Leng Peng Long, National Assembly spokesperson, said he could not confirm Tina’s nomination and could not be reached to confirm the letter published in Fresh News.

The reason for previous Minister of Agriculture Sakhon’s dismissal was not included in the royal decree, issued while he was traveling abroad to Europe. Yet Sakhon had previously been criticized by Prime Minister Hun Sen for failing to cooperate with other ministries over a proposed pig importation policy.

Sakhon could not be reached for comment. Since assuming his post in April, 2016, he had been vocal about reforming the Ministry.

Veng Sakhon, former Minister of Agriculture, speaks during a meeting on September 21, 2022. (Ministry of Agriculture Facebook)

In 2019, Veng Sakhon told the Phnom Penh Post that he wanted to merge ministries whose duties overlapped with the agricultural sector, suggesting meteorology, rural development and water resources management activities could become part of his ministry.

Sakhon also blamed a lack of funding for agricultural infrastructure as a barrier to developing the sector.

“We are accused of not doing anything to improve the sector such as finding markets for farmers and setting prices but, in reality, we have not invested in core infrastructure,” Sakhon told Khmer Times in August 2020. “As a minister, I can do nothing, and I am very sad.”

Tensions mounted between Sakhon and the Prime Minister when the Ministry of Economy announced a bidding process for importing live pigs into Cambodia on February 11. The Ministry of Agriculture opposed the policy, stating local pig farmers would be harmed. 

Later, at the annual Ministry of Agriculture meeting in February, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized Sakhon and warned he might remove Sakhon from his position. 

“Among the ministers, I would like to point out that the minister who refuses to cooperate with others is the Minister of Agriculture,” Hun Sen said. 

“Removing a minister is not difficult, I only need 24 hours to remove one minister,” Hun Sen said.

President of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers’ Association (CLRA), Srun Pov declined to comment on Sakhon’s removal nor his legacy.  However, Pov noted the pig industry had experienced growth and was already meeting the demand for 8,000 pig sales per day.

“The supply of live pigs by local producers is now oversupplied,” he said. “Cambodia does not have to import live pigs — that would kill farmers’ [business].”

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