Tycoons working at the Interior Ministry reluctant to choose between their government positions and their ‘Oknha’ titles have prompted Minister Sar Kheng to schedule a meeting today to deliberate on what to do next.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the ministry, yesterday said it has identified 33 tycoon title holders working for a dozen high-ranking departments, including the National Police, but only one has agreed to give up his or her tycoon title.
“We found 33 tycoon title holders with the ministry, but there is only one who agreed to give up the title. We have 32 other tycoons,” Gen Sopheak said. “Samdech Minister Sar Kheng will lead a meeting on September 10 to discuss this matter in order to decide on what to do next.”
“The best choice is that they choose [between their private titles or their government position],” he added. “They cannot keep both.”
It is not clear whether the tycoons will attend the meeting, but Gen Sopheak said senior ministry officials will be present.
Tycoon is a title given to those who have contributed at least $500,000 to the government. A number of tycoons hold key positions in the armed forces and the police.
Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered members of the military and police forces who hold the honorary title of “Oknha”, which translates to tycoon, to choose between their state positions or private title.
CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun previously said the move was made to minimise conflict of interest.
“We are doing this to prevent officials in the armed forces from gaining business advantages,” he said. “Yes, there are people who have used their ranks and titles to commit offences.”
Since Mr Hun Sen made the order, the Defence and Interior Ministries have been scrambling to identify tycoons within each ministry.
So far, the Defence Ministry has identified 99 tycoons within the ministry office and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, while the Interior Ministry has identified 33.
Defence Minister General Tea Banh previously said the majority of the 99 tycoons have given up one of their conflicting positions, but he was unable to disclose exactly how many.
“I can’t tell how many of them gave up their military positions, but they are following procedure and submitting official statements,” he said.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, yesterday said some tycoons who hold military positions have used it to gain a business advantage.
“The most important thing is that we want to see powerful people not use their positions within the armed forces when they do business,” Mr Chey said. “I think if they are only tycoons, people will not care. There are many good tycoons, they do not mistreat people, but the problem is with some tycoons who are also generals.”