Y Chhien to Be Replaced as Pailin Governor

Y Chhien, who has served as the governor of Pailin province since former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary led his rebel forces in the area to defect to the government in 1996, will step down from his position on Saturday, his cabinet chief said Thursday.

Mr. Chhien is set to be replaced by his deputy governor, Koeut Sothea, at a ceremony presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, according to Sao Sarath, Mr. Chhien’s cabinet chief.

“We only received an official letter from the Interior Ministry about the replacement of Pailin Governor Y Chhien,” Mr. Sarath said. He added that a Royal Decree for the change had yet to be received.

Mr. Sothea has served as Mr. Chhien’s deputy since he was appointed as governor after the September 1996 defections.

Mr. Chhien, 63, who served as the chief bodyguard for Pol Pot, was named governor of the small province on the Thai border when it was carved out of Battambang province as part of the deal that saw Ieng Sary bring nearly 5,000 troops to the Phnom Penh government.

It was the first major defection of Khmer Rouge forces following the 1993 U.N.-organized elections, which the rebels had boycotted, and deprived the group access to Pailin’s lucrative gem trade, which had for years financed its armed struggle against the government.

Ieng Vuth, the son of Ieng Sary, who has also served as one of Mr. Chhien’s deputies since the defection, will continue in the role, said Kong Duong, director of the Pailin department of information.

Mr. Duong said Mr. Chhien was being replaced due to his age and will be appointed as chief of the Pailin provincial council.

“It has been 18 years that Y Chhien has been the governor of Palin, and our former Khmer Rouge people feel sorry about this when they hear Mr. Chhien is being replaced in the coming days,” he said.

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