Saturday, September 17, 2016
Cambodia - Fired Health Director Promoted by PM
Sok Sokun has been moved to a higher position at the ministry. Supplied
Prime Minister Hun Sen has appointed a recently-fired municipal health director to a post within the Health Ministry, seemingly attempting to paper over a controversy that plagued the premier’s weekend.
Sok Sokun, a municipal health director in Phnom Penh, was fired on Saturday by the prime minister after he impounded an unlicensed, unregistered ambulance being used for business and humanitarian purposes by the ABC radio station in Phnom Penh last Thursday.
Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page exploded with comments from local residents who said the ambulance, despite being caught selling guava juice when it was stopped and lacking most of the required registration documents, was used to give food and supplies to those in flood-affected parts of the country during times of need.
The premier called in to the radio station himself to announce that Mr. Sokun had been fired. But later that same day, Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page exploded again – this time with people excoriating the leader for firing a government worker simply for doing his job. He defended the decision to fire Mr. Sokun, but later relented and reneged on his initial decision.
Mr. Sokun was promoted to technical health deputy general director at the Health Ministry. His deputy, Ngy Meanheng, will take over his job at the municipal health department in the interim while a replacement is found.
“I decided to appoint Mr. Sok Sokun to technical health deputy general director at the Health Ministry,” the sub-decree signed by Mr. Hun Sen read.
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovanna said despite news reports stating otherwise, Mr. Sokun had officially been fired .
Mr. Sokun, working with the municipal health department’s Committee to Fight against Counterfeit Drugs and Illegal Health Care Service, stopped the ambulance because it had not registered with the Health Ministry and was flouting a variety of ministry rules for ambulances.
Without medical experts, medical supplies, or proper license plates, ambulances are not allowed to operate in Cambodia. The government has been trying to crack down on the use of informal ambulances, some of which were found last year to be stealing money from injured patients during treatment.
Mr. Hun Sen said he fired Mr. Sokun not because of what he did, but how he did it. He claims that as a municipal official, Mr. Sokun did not have the power to impound a vehicle without coordinating first with Justice Ministry officials.
As an olive branch, the prime minister donated two ambulances to ABC radio so they can continue their humanitarian work.
But the owner of ABC radio station, media tycoon Seng Bunveng, told Radio France International on Sunday evening that he will not register or put license plates on the vehicles and criticized the health department and Health Ministry for providing lackluster healthcare to the Kingdom’s citizens.