Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sourn Serey Ratha at the municipal court in 2016. He was sentenced to five years in prison for inciting soldiers to disobedience and inciting others to commit offences. Hong Menea

A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said.

Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post on Sunday that although he was unsure of what he would be tasked with, he will use the position to improve farmers’ livelihood.

“I have not given up on political life. My focus is on helping citizens, especially farmers, as that is my vision from the beginning. If they have land, they should have good living conditions and become rightful owners without anyone encroaching on it,” he said.

Serey Ratha was arrested on August 13, 2017, after posting social media messages critical of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) leadership. The Facebook posts centred around a confrontation between Cambodian and Lao armies along the borders in Stung Treng province.

He was then sentenced to five years in prison and fined 10 million riel ($2,500) on charges of inciting soldiers to disobedience and inciting others to commit offences.

While in prison, he was booted out as KPP president. He was granted a royal pardon on August 23, 2018, at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said he was not aware of Serey Ratha’s appointment. Future Forum think tank president Ou Virak nor political analyst Meas Ny could be reached for comment on Sunday.