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Senior energy official tapped as new agriculture minister

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Ministry of Mines and Energy secretary of state Dith Tina has been tapped as the next Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. FB

Senior energy official tapped as new agriculture minister

Dith Tina, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, has been nominated to succeed Veng Sakhon as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Sakhon was sacked by a royal decree dated October 8. Later that day, Prime Minister Hun Sen temporarily put Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmonirath at the helm of the agriculture ministry on top of his post.

In his letter addressed to National Assembly (NA) president Heng Samrin and seen by The Post on October 10, Hun Sen requested that the NA hold a vote of confidence for Tina at its earliest convenience.

Now in his 40s, Tina previously served as secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce before his transfer to the energy ministry.

The vote of confidence is expected to be cast by the NA’s Standing Committee on October 13, according to an NA letter made public by the National Television of Cambodia (TVK).

NA spokesman Leng Peng Long could not be reached for comment on October 10.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post on October 10 that he had not seen any official correspondence on the nomination as it is directly handled by a deputy prime minister.

Nevertheless, he said Tina is a very suitable candidate and highly qualified for this position, having graduated abroad. This could be the decisive factor behind the government’s endorsement of his ministerial post, he added.

Siphan said the decision could indicate a move to appoint highly qualified youth, developing the next generation of leaders.

“In addition to his qualifications, we also look at his wide range of knowledge. The government is trying to inject new blood into the executive branch. My generation is now reaching 70 or 80 years of age. We need to strengthen the new generation and this is the goal of Prime Minster Hun Sen,” Siphan said.

Sakhon’s dismissal has drawn mixed reaction, with some critics alleging that the move was unconstitutional.

On October 10, Hun Sen took to social media to defend his decision to strip Sakhon of his portfolio, stressing that the removal and subsequent appointment of an acting minister were in line with the Constitution and relevant laws.

“To contribute to increasing the knowledge of the opposition groups who are desperate to obtain power in their next lives, I suggest you read Article 21 in Chapter 2 of the Constitution which refers to the King.

“Then you should read Article 20 in Chapter 3 of the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Council of Ministers,” he wrote, apparently hitting back at former opposition lawmaker Eng Chhai Eang.

Article 20 of the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Council of Ministers states that the prime minister may request the King to remove any government member from their position by a royal decree.

“Upon the request of the Council of Ministers, the King shall sign royal decrees appointing, transferring or removing from office, senior civil and military officials, ambassadors and envoys extraordinary and plenipotentiary,” states Article 21 in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

Kin Phea, director of International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, opined that Tina is suitable for the post. He said the government must select a successor who is well qualified, and expected the agricultural sector to prosper under the new minister.

“What the public want is markets for their agriculture produce, information on the most advanced agricultural techniques, and enough resources – including seeds and water – that they can grow in all seasons,” he said.

“We should not remain in a state of subsistence farming any longer because Cambodia is an agricultural dependant country. Therefore, the industry should be as advanced as possible,” he added.

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