Cambodia's Gen. Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, is seen on June 26, 2007, at Kampot province, about 130 kilometers (80. 6 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The head of Cambodia's armed forces has been dismissed from his post and replaced by a loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodian soldiers exercise in a camp at Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP file Photo/Heng Sinith)
The head of Cambodia's armed forces was dismissed from his post Thursday and replaced with a longtime loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen with whom he served in the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
A royal decree announced the removal of Gen. Ke Kim Yan, the commander in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who was replaced by his deputy, Gen. Pol Saroeun.
No reason was given for the move. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said it was a normal reshuffle, which was initiated by the government.
After Ke Kim Yan, 53, failed to support Hun Sen's 1997 coup against then co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, he was marginalized and left without any real power. He was threatened several times with dismissal by the prime minister, whose control of the country is virtually unchallenged.
Ke Kim Yan joined the Cambodian armed forces in 1979 and became its head in 1999. Politically he allied himself with Hun Sen's rivals in the ruling Cambodian People's Party leadership.
Pol Saroeun, meanwhile, is known to have close ties to Hun Sen. Both served during the communist Khmer Rouge regime that took power in 1975, and both fled the murderous group before it was ousted in 1979.
Several other top members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party are also former members of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies are widely considered responsible for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people though execution, starvation, overwork and starvation. Several members are the regime have been charged with war crimes at a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal.