Opposition party leader and agriculture expert Yang Saing Koma and a colleague met with Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss plans to recover the agriculture sector, with a ministry official saying he will be offered a secretary of state position in the government.
Koma, who is the vice president of the Grassroots Democratic Party, and party spokesperson Loek Sothea were photographed with Hun Sen and Agriculture Minister Dith Tina on Monday, a day after letters from the two were leaked to the media revealing their intention to join the CPP and work in the Agriculture Ministry.
Two letters, both dated November 23 from Koma and Sothea respectively, said they wanted to move to the CPP and participate in the Agriculture Ministry, adding they were satisfied with the ministry’s recent policy. The letters said they would suggest a 12-point proposal to Hun Sen to better the ailing sector.
Koma could not be reached on Monday. On Sunday, he told VOD that the letter was not supposed to be leaked and that their intention to join the CPP should have been made public on December 2, only after they met Hun Sen and agreed to a 12-point plan.
“[I] asked for an announcement on December 2, but regretfully we have seen my prepared letter publicly published at this time. I don’t understand it either,” he said.
Koma said he had informally met the minister about their proposal to improve the sector, which included supplying higher-quality seeds, creating farming communities, creating storage facilities within these communities, supporting rice mills by providing them funds, and enhancing cooperation between relevant institutions.
Sothea told VOD on Monday that he did not want to speculate about what position he would be given at the ministry and said the prime minister had accepted their 12-point plan, which wasn’t too different from the government’s own policies.
Hun Sen had accepted their proposals, but Sothea did not want to talk about whether he would be accepted into the government and asked to wait for an official announcement in the Royal Books.
He was aware of the challenges posed in the agriculture sector and found this to be his motivation to join the government.
“All these issues are the encouragement for us to try hard to work,” he said.
Ministry spokesperson Im Rachana said it was not important whether the government approached the two politicians or the opposite, and added that Koma would likely get a secretary of state position, with Sothea being appointed an undersecretary of state.
“For the excellency minister, this participation reflects the strong will of the two in the agriculture sector. For their responsibilities, the excellency minister will prepare work that is deserving and appropriate to their abilities and potential,” she said.
After Monday’s meeting Minister Tina tweeted “United for #CambodiaAgriculture.”
The minister was recently appointed after the surprise removal of the former minister Veng Sakhon last month, who was recently criticized by Hun Sen. His replacement Tina has discussed plans to address issues in the sector and has met with farmers, but his ministry has also threatened farmers who criticize the government for being inactive.
Yeng Virak, the president of the GDP, said on Sunday he was aware of the development and that the party had first submitted a letter requesting a meeting to the Agriculture Ministry on November 18, and Koma was later approached by the ministry to meet.
The GDP failed to register more than a few commune council seats in the June commune election, after equally flat performances in the prior two elections in 2018 and 2017, respectively.