King Norodom Sihamoni has signed an order terminating the positions of 12 senior government advisors known for their close links with Khmer National United Party president Nhek Bunchhay.
The royal decree, signed on Tuesday and seen yesterday by Khmer Times, said the sacked officials include three government advisers with the same rank as minister, three with the same rank as secretary of state and six with the same rank as under-secretary of state.
All the officials are former Funcinpec party members and joined Mr Bunchhay’s KNUP when he formed it last year.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not provide details on the matter but said it was the government’s privilege to appoint and remove officials as it sees fit.
“When the government discovers that officials are not beneficial to the administration or do not have the ability to serve, the government has the privilege to terminate their positions by requesting the King to sign a royal decree,” he said.
Funcinpec Party secretary-general Yim Savy said the government had warned former Funcinpec officials who joined Mr Bunchhay’s breakaway KNUP that they would lose their positions when they defected last year.
He said they had been told to either return to Funcinpec or join the CPP if they wanted to stay in their jobs.
“The removal of their positions was probably due to those officials remaining with the KNUP,” he said.
Mr Savy added that Funcinpec had no problem with the KNUP officials that had been working in government, but said: “The government is in charge of distributing power. If any officials contravene rules and regulations, the government cannot keep them on.
“This applies to officials from other parties and the ruling CPP.”
The King last month granted the Prime Minister’s request for Mr Bunchhay to be stripped of his role as a government advisor, which was equal in status to deputy prime minister.
Mr Hun Sen had asked for the KNUP leader to be punished following suspicion about his involvement with the opposition CNRP.
Five other KNUP officials were also sacked from their government positions last month, while several others defected to the CPP.
Neither Mr Bunchhay nor senior KNUP officials could be reached for comment yesterday.