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PM: Leaders age like wine

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Photographers snap pictures of a video feed of the inaugural meeting of the National Assembly's sixth mandate last week. Pha Lina

PM: Leaders age like wine

Defending the fact that the leadership has remained largely the same in the sixth mandate of the government, Prime Minister Hun Sen said reforms were more about improving job efficiencies.

Several analysts have begged to differ, however, saying reforms won’t make much progress under an identical hierarchy.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the single-party National Assembly on September 7, Hun Sen said it wasn’t important to change leaders. Instead, he said it was more important to never give up on old ways, especially since the people had voted for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

He said ministers were kept in their positions because they had done a good job, and would continue to try their best. He compared changing people for the sake of reform to committing suicide.

“At this point, many people are waiting to see how many young people, how many old people are in this new cabinet. I do not care. I care about issues related to job efficiency instead.”

Pulling out a few food metaphors, the prime minister compared ministers with a long tenure to fine wine or old ginger, which he said is spicier and represents the leaders’ strength in leadership.

“Everybody always says that old red wine has a good taste. If one wants old wine, how about old officials? On the other hand, our old ones are called ginger . . . the older it gets, the spicier it is."

“Hun Sen’s success started with five people. So far millions of people are with Hun Sen, in the way of keeping the old and increasing the new,” he said.

But political analyst Meas Nee said: “Reforms have to look to human resources, management systems and monitoring. For now, I do not expect success yet because of the experience we've had before. I'm waiting to see . . . maybe Samdech [Hun Sen] can take other measures.”

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability's executive director San Chey, said that there were leaders in the government who were standing out because of their service. He cited Hang Chuon Naron, the minister of education and Sun Chanthol, the minister of public works in particular.

“No matter how good the plans are, if the person is not willing and is not exemplary, there will be no new results coming out,” he said.

Another analyst, Sok Touch, said the government should wait until the mandate is halfway through and then reshuffle as needed.

“Normally, if [Hun Sen] is a leader and won like this, and we change the officials, it will cause disappointment. Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] said old ginger is spicier, but older people are getting weaker because people are not ginger,” he said.