Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

National Assembly approves gov’t cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly on March 30, 2020. Panha Chhorpoan

The National Assembly approved Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet reshuffle on Monday, replacing four ministers who were in turn appointed as “senior ministers” without portfolio.

A near unanimous vote approved the reshuffle, with 120 of the 121 lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party voting in favor. One vote cast was deemed to be invalid. The reshuffle was meant to increase productivity in government and had been announced to the public on Friday.

Among the changes, Koeuth Rith, a former Justice Ministry secretary of state, was promoted to head the ministry, replacing Ang Vong Vathana, who had been justice minister since 2004. 

Chhit Sokhon, a Council of Ministers secretary of state, also replaced Him Chhem as minister for cults for religion; Chea Vandeth, chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Planning, Investment, Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment and Water Resources replaced Tram Iv Tek as minister of posts and telecommunications; and Prum Sokha, a high-profile secretary of state at the ministry of civil service, replaced Pich Bunthin as the civil service minister. 

Meanwhile, Cham Prasidh, who had been minister at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, had his ministry renamed the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation. The four replaced ministers were also all appointed as “senior ministers” in cabinet, alongside Prasidh, who already held the title.

After the vote, Hun Sen told a press conference at the National Assembly the four outgoing ministers were still capable of ministerial duties but that — due to their advanced ages — he was concerned about their health and ability to implement reforms for a digital future. He noted that Chhem, in particular, was not even at the Assembly vote due to present health problems.

“They are in ages that require them to sleep for a long time, so it is necessary for us to reform,” Hun Sen said, singling out the civil service and the judicial system as areas in particular need of change after a recent focus on changes to financial administration. “We are undergoing changes from analogue systems to digital systems … so it is required that we have some initiative,” he said.