After some civil servants voiced concerns regarding the payment of their salaries, Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded by saying that the government will not go back to paying salaries in cash directly to civil servants like in the 1990s.

Addressing the December 30 groundbreaking ceremony of an upgrade project for National Roads 31 and 33, Hun Sen said that many civil servants have sent messages requesting they be paid directly in cash, following a recent suggestion by Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) president Sok Touch, who wants to abolish the practice of disbursing payroll through banks.

“No. Sok Touch cannot manage things for his RAC officials and makes the suggestion. We’re not going to allow him to destroy the reforms that we strove to make to build a digital economy by going back to paying people in cash directly.

The prime minister pointed out the enormous problems with corruption that making cash payments to government officials caused in the Kingdom’s past and scoffed at the notion of returning to such an inefficient and outdated system.

“This era is the digital age, the era of bank payments. It is not the era for ghost officials or ghost soldiers. Let me tell you, the direct payment of cash for payroll created a lot of problems. Just by switching government payroll to go through the banks, we expelled more than 30,000 ghost officials. Because why? Because ghosts have trouble getting an ATM card for withdrawing their salaries,” he stated.

Hun Sen continued that included in the ranks of the more than 30,000 ghost officials were also people who were caught working in three or four different civil service jobs under different names and in some cases they were even able to force those people to reimburse the government for their misappropriated salaries.

Cash payroll had also allowed some officers in the military to engage in the illegal and corrupt practice of deducting a portion from the salary of each of the soldiers under their command to keep for themselves, which Hun Sen said is thankfully now impossible with modern banks handling everything.

He also pointed out that in addition to abetting systemic corruption, payments of salaries in cash also caused huge security problems related to transporting the money to each destination in armored cars every month.

“Let me tell you something – I don’t act at the request of Sok Touch,” he emphasized in dismissing the RAC president’s payroll idea.