PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Both the ruling Cambodia People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party are deflecting questions about paid advisors appointed to their leaders, following criticism this week over the 38 granted by Royal decree to newly-appointed Senate President chief Say Chhum.
A CPP spokesman brushed off questions about their salaries. “That is a rude question. What if I asked you how much your salary was?” he asked.
The CNRP also declined to answer questions about advisors appointed to that party’s vice president, Kem Sokha, who is also first vice president of the National Assembly.
“If you want to know, talk directly to Mr. Sokha,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said. Mr. Sokha – who has 21 advisors – could not be reached for comment.
The appointment of so many advisors is a waste of money, political analyst Ou Virak said. Using the national budget to serve political parties is a violation of the principles of democracy, he told Khmer Times.
The salaries are a waste of money that could be used to bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor, said Kem Ley, founder of the Khmers for Khmers social movement.
The sensitivity that shrouds salaries paid to the advisors is a symptom of “the disease of a lack of transparency in Cambodia,” Mr. Ley said.
He also expressed disappointment in the opposition, saying that they were mimicking the ruling party. “Cambodians expected the opposition party to change the status quo, so it is disappointing that they are following the CPP,” Mr. Ley added.
Political analyst Sok Touch, however, said there should be no controversy as the appointment of new advisors was necessary.
The advisors play an important role in providing advice to help leaders make critical decisions, Mr. Touch said. When a new Senate chief is appointed, fresh advisors should follow suit, he added. The number is not important, he continued, saying that the focus should be on their qualifications.
New Senate chief Say Chhum was granted 38 advisors according to a Royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni earlier this week.
The announcement of the advisors sparked widespread criticism.
“Advisor” titles are sought for business purposes, Mr. Virak said. Those using the titles to make connections are also making governance more complex, he added.
This week’s controversy over “advisors” follows another last September, when Mr. Sokha faced a backlash after it was discovered he had been given 21 official advisors.
Mr. Virak said the advisors were also “useless” because the Senate had no real power or role. He said the Senate should be shut down.