Prime Minister Announces Hefty Raises for Ruling Party Staffers

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called on his ruling party to give its staffers a base salary on par with the country’s lowest paid teachers plus 30 percent, roughly matching the raises teachers, nurses, police and soldiers will be seeing this year.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for teachers in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he told CPP secretary-general Say Chhum via text message to make it happen.

“I texted a message saying that civil servants and armed forces will have their salaries raised in April, so full-time party staff will also get a salary, an increased salary,” he said. “I want to take the lowest [paid] teacher and add 30 percent. A party has to be strengthened in countries where there are many parties.”

He said he forwarded the same text to Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth.

Taking aim at the CPP’s main opposition, the prime minister accused the CNRP of taking up the call for a $160 monthly minimum wage for garment workers last year while neglecting its own party staffers.

“They demanded $160 for workers but the staff at their offices are offered only $80,” he said.

In August, Mr. Hun Sen announced a large pay increase for teachers and nurses to take effect in three stages by April. In January, he announced similar raises of 35 percent and up for low-ranking police and soldiers, also to take effect next month.

Sok Ey San, a lawmaker and spokesman for the CPP, said the raises the prime minister called for Wednesday would apply only to the party’s administrative staff at its Phnom Penh headquarters and its branch offices outside the capital. He said he had no idea how many staffers there were, however, and would not even hazard a guess.

Mr. Ey San added that the staff raises would not be coming from the government budget and that Mr. Hun Sen only texted the finance minister for “technical assistance.”

“First, the money will come from the financial contributions of party members, and second from the legal businesses of the party,” he said. “The party owns hotels… farms and rubber plantations.”

The CPP did not provide a figure for the salary of the country’s lowest paid teachers, on which the party staffers’ new wages will be based. According to the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, primary school teachers start off at 410,000 riel (about $102.50) per month.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith denied Mr. Hun Sen’s claim that his party paid its staff $80 a month. He said the CNRP’s staff were all volunteers and that the CPP was raising its staffers’ salaries out of fear of losing them.

“Perhaps it’s his strategy to encourage his party’s staff because he is afraid of them running away from the party,” he said.

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