How Hun Sen Widens his Power Base Cracks
“Due to an important personal issue, I delegate full power as chief of joint staff to Lieutenant General Hun Manet to assume the duty as of the date of signature [21 February 2018].”
Chief of Joint Staff General Kun Kim, 2 March 2018, Khmer Times
“I am a law enforcer, and the armed forces defend the government. Provided that there are orders, I must enforce, I must defend the government. Even… if we expend flesh and blood, we must enforce the law.”
RCAF Deputy Commander-in-chief General Kun Kim, 31 August 2016, The Phnom Penh Post
A battle line has been drawn within the CPP. Hun Sen fires the first shot by replacing four-star general Kun Kim with his son Manet for the top job. Pseng-Pseng’s 24 March 2017 edition expounds four indications of a CPP crack.
General Kun Kim was once a Hun Sen’s dutiful minion; in any autocracy, none will move to the top without earning trust. He is prepared to shed Khmer blood for Hun Sen, and vows to arrest the two opposition leaders on order. He has done his duty so well Human Right Watch labels him as Hun Sen’s axe man.
Besides the resignation, Hun Sen demands the general sort out the “important personal issue” soon or facing imprisonment on criminal charges. Hence, what is this “issue” that enrages Hun Sen?
There could be two major possibilities: Hun Sen may suspect Kun Kim of being one of generals who are no longer interested in being a trigger-happy on his command; or, Kun Kim may be one of landowners who are indiscreetly disgruntled by Hun Sen’s new mega-airport project in Kandal that will damage their land interests.
First, with the latest round of promotions, the number of Cambodian generals is estimated to exceed 3,000, though an official number remains a top secret. It may be too embarrassing to disclose there are enough stars to lit up a whole town. However, Hun Sen has been worried that his wishes are no longer their commands. He reacts intensely to Sam Rainsy’s persistent appeals to the armed forces not to shoot dissenting citizens. Hun Sen needs as many trigger-happy generals as he can muster.
Fast promotions of his sons to top jobs over veteran and more experienced generals could do much to disquiet his top brass. It has become very awkward for some of them to look up to their junior officers for guidance and approvals on major decisions.
Second, Kun Kim is among those minions who own, or claim to own, some land in the area earmarked for the airport and airport-city project that covers 2,600 hectares. They must know project developer Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) is a mere front for Hun Sen’s business interests. A source in the Hun Sen inner circle claims OCIC caps their land compensations even though market prices have skyrocketed by at least three-times since the project’s announcement in January. Essentially, Hun Sen reaps most benefits for himself and his family – by squeezing his minions; the greed may disgust Kun Kim. Nevertheless, it is ironic that many of these minions who are used to screwing over vulnerable villagers, become victims themselves.
Hun Sen must know the grumbling within the CPP, and hence the need to keep the lid on his generals. The source claims the only way Kun Kim could “sort out this issue” is to lay bare his cohort network. It seems the general is only the first of many to come, unless his cohorts strike Hun Sen in response now with a colour revolution he deserves.
Ung Bun Ang
By the Way
There has been a frantic mobilisation of the 90% of diaspora in Australia that Hun Sen says are his supporters to welcome him in Sydney this weekend.
Ambassador Kuy Kuong drafts into the 90% all students from Cambodia by their names, literally ordering them to go see Hun Sen.
For others, especially those in Melbourne, there is an offer on the table from a promoter by the nickname of Yeay Chab for those who volunteer to go. For the insignificant ones, there is a minimum one-off payment of $300; for the significant ones, like those in business or high-profiles in the community, the lumpsum cash offer is up to $1,500 plus airfare and accommodation in Sydney. Excellent deal for a holiday.
By the way, when Hun Manet was in Australia, a similar cash incentive deal (smaller amount, of course) for a restaurant dinner party in his honour was offered. As it turned out, he must have been half-broke as he could afford only the food bills, not the cash incentives, which was a real disappointment for many.
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Pseng-Pseng is published irregularly. Previous issues are archived at pseng-pseng.blogspot.com