|Minister of Interior|
Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia
Assumed office |
3 February 1992
|Prime Minister||Hun Sen|
|Member of Parliament|
Assumed office |
15 January 1951|
Prey Veng, Cambodia
|Political party||Cambodian People's Party|
Sar Kheng (Khmer: ស ខេង; born 15 January 1951) is a Cambodian politician. One of the highest-ranking members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, he is the current Minister of the Interior and has served as a Deputy Prime Minister since 1992. He also represents the province of Battambang in the Cambodian Parliament. Kheng has been the Minister of the Interior since 1992. Until March 2006, he shared the position with FUNCINPEC party member You Hockry as co-Ministers of the Interior, but then became sole interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle as FUNCINPEC ended its coalition with the CPP. He is currently the most senior deputy prime minister. On June 14, 2015, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded Kheng the honorary title of "Samdech". His official title is "Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng" (សម្ដេចក្រឡាហោម ស ខេង). Kheng is married to Nhem Sakhan with whom he has three children.
Kheng is a long-time member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which, according to international observers, has dominated politics and held on to power in Cambodia since 1979 through corruption, including extralegal killings, election fraud, control of the media, and at times, open violence such as the 1997 coup and 2015 intimidation of the opposition CNRP deputy leader, Kem Sokha. Within the CPP, Kheng is its Vice President and a standing member of its Central Committee, the body responsible for all core decision making. Kheng is also brother-in-law to former Khmer Rouge commander Chea Sim, who was CPP president until his death in 2015.
Kheng and other current leaders of Cambodia, including Hun Sen, Tea Banh, Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, were senior cadre leaders of the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian Civil War and the resulting Democratic Kampuchea. During the 1980s, Kheng, along with his brother-in-law Chea Sim, were identified as "hard-liners" in the People's Republic of Kampuchea government. As leaders in the one-party state controlled by the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (the former name of the CPP), they were accused of operating "a police state". Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams described governmental policies that included imprisonment without trial and torture of political activists. By the late 1990s, however, Kheng's name was often floated by Western observers as a possible party "reformer".
Minister of the Interior
Kheng became the Minister of Interior in 1992 during the UN protectorate period overseeing the State of Cambodia's transition to the Kingdom of Cambodia. During this time, the CPP formed a coalition with its main rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC party. As a result of this arrangement, each party appointed members to "share" higher offices. Kheng and FUNCINPEC member You Hockry were appointed as co-Ministers of the Interior. This arrangement lasted until the Senate elections of 2006, when FUNCINPEC, which lost many seats while Ranariddh left to form his own party, dissolved the coalition and allied with Sam Rainsy's opposition movement. You Hockry, who chose to follow Ranariddh, was dismissed and Prince Norodom Sirivudh was made co-minister with Kheng. However, Sirivudh was soon also dismissed, leaving Kheng as the sole Minister of the Interior.
Throughout this period, a schism slowly developed in the CPP with Hun Sen and his supporters who would hold on to power at all costs on one side and the more moderate Kheng, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin on the other. Hun Sen, who had control and support of the military and National Police emerged as the undisputed leader. His suspicion of Kheng was such that during an aborted coup attempt led by Prince Norodom Chakrapong in 1994, Hun Sen totally bypassed the Ministry of the Interior in his response, not notifying Kheng of troop mobilization or movements until the whole episode had already ended. Three years later, while planning the 1997 coup to oust his popular co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Hun Sen personally confronted Kheng to ensure his loyalty and support for the use of force. Further, Kheng could do nothing to reign in Hok Lundy, the head of the National Police force and close confidant of Hun Sen, who was accused of crimes and abuses of power ranging from human trafficking and drug smuggling to the murder of political opponents even though Lundy was under the authority of the Interior Ministry.
Kheng continues to attempt to be a mediating force in Cambodia politics. After the October 2015 attacks on opposition CNRP lawmakers by pro-CPP demonstrators, Kheng conducted informal meetings with CNRP leader Sam Rainsy in an attempt to "restore a working relationship" between the two parties and quell the tension. In September 2015, he warned the authorities of Sihanoukville whom he suspected of taking bribes in return for allowing illegal fishing and smuggling activities off the coast. Also in September, Kheng announced the formation of a seven-person police commission to investigate the 2013 death threats made by CPP Interior Ministry official Lieutenant Colonel Pheng Vannak against CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha. The investigation has resulted in Kheng removing Vannak from his position.
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