PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a rare reshuffle of his cabinet on Thursday, and said several ministers due to be fired had already resigned as he moved to freshen up his government.
The self-styled “strongman”, whose three-decade grip on power is being tested by an opposition party growing in popularity, said parliament would vote on April 4 to approve a new lineup with changes at the top in eight ministries.
He did not say which portfolios would be affected, but had earlier warned that heads might roll and singled out the agriculture and transport ministers for working too slowly.
“This is for more efficient work,” Hun Sen said at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.
“Here, no ministers are bad but some ministers are very slow so we have to make some changes.”
Reshuffles have been rare under the rule of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), with some ministers having held the same posts for over a decade. Some of Hun Sen’s loyalists have served under him since the 1980s.
He said some cabinet members had submitted resignations before he had the chance to sack them and four provincial governors would also be removed.
CPP officially won a disputed election in 2013 but its house majority was greatly reduced, signaling widespread disenchantment with Hun Sen’s iron-fisted rule, even with economic growth of more than seven percent a year.
The premier has since promoted his sons and top allies within the party, government and military top brass in what experts see as a political dynasty taking shape.
The next election, scheduled for 2018, is expected to a close contest between CPP and the Cambodian National Rescue Party and relations between them have soured lately, suggesting the run up to the poll may not be smooth.
Kung Phoak, president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS), said there was some skepticism about Hun Sen’s real motives, but he agreed a shakeup was needed.
“What is most needed now is more proactive, effective and strong ministries that have fresh ideas, energy and determination to bring the best out of those policies and programs,” he said.
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty and Simon Cameron-Moore