Chain-smoking filter cigarettes, Meas Huon speaks with stern self-assurance, only rarely looking his visitor in the eye. He is gray at the temples, about 50 years old and clearly a man accustomed to giving orders and having them obeyed.
Subordinates lower their voices when admitted to his sparsely furnished office. Their eyes dart about nervously, as if they are worried about allowing the visitor to take too much of this important man's time.
Meas Huon is director of Kompong Som port, where most relief shipments to Cambodia arrive. He is also one of the Heng Samrin government's limited supply of "old cadre," longtime revolutionaries who defected to Vietnam years ago and today run Cambodia in partnership with Hanoi.
Meas Huon was a Khmer Rouge Army officer until former premier Pol Pot put him under arrest in 1974.Two years later he escaped to Vietnam.
"Pol Pot killed many authentic revolutionaries," he declares. "The only way to survive was to leave the country."
Training more "authentic revolutionaries" like Meas Huon has high priority in the 16-month-old Heng Samrin government. So far it has been forced to fill the middle and lower levels of government with people of suspect loyalty, former officials of Cambodia's defunct anticommunist governments headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Lon Nol.
Today one can meet a provincial revolutionary committee member who served in Lon Nol's Ministry of Agriculture, a village chief who held the same post during the Sihanouk era.
Phom Penh often cites examples such as these as evidence that the new government wants a broad political base. But many analysts feel the situation was forced on the new leadership. Khmer Rouge officials could not be allowed to stay on, and the Vietnamese had trained only the skeleton of a Cambodian administrative staff before launching their invasion in December 1978.
The gap was filled by recruiting former civil servants and technicians who had survived the bloody purges of the Khmer Rouge. They got crash courses in the new politices -- a few hours or as much as a month of lectures on Cambodian-Vietnamese friendship and Hanoi's version of socialist development -- and were put to work.
In many of these people, however, analysts have sensed a lack of commitment to the new order, and thinly veiled resentment of the Vietnamese "advisers" that every government of fice seems to have.
For a few the attraction to government service is primarily altruistic, as it affords the chance to use special technical skills to repair the damages of war. But many others are after the security a government job offers.
Although ordinary Cambodians receive only tiny allotments of rice from the government, civil servants can expect full rations -- 22 to 48 pounds a month -- depending on their rank. They can occupy homes in neighborhoods reserved for government employes and become part of a privileged class.
The offices these people staff are probably among Asia's most unprodrobably among Asia's most unproductive. Everything here requires stamped passes and countersignatures.
When Foreign Ministry officials wish to take journalists on the standard tours in Phnom Penh -- the National Museum, a factory, a hospital, the Tuol Sleng High School that the Khmer Rouge turned into a prison -- they must first obtain permission in writing for each from the appropriate ministry.
Individual Cambodians are quick to admit that things move slowly in officialdom. But they point to the country's war and social upheaval, and to their own needs to supplement their incomes.
"We can't work hard because we're not paid very much," a civil servant said. "We have to slip out of the office to sell things in the market."
Meanwhile special schools in the capital are turning out cadre trained in the new politics. Other people go to Vietnam for intensive study. Orphans that Vietnamese troops found last year in the front lines, for instance, have undergone five-month courses in politics, sports and language in Vietnam.
Phnom Penh is likely to replace many of its current crop of civl servants as new cadre are trained.
The government also is preparing to unveil a new Communist Party of Kampuchea (Cambodia), founded by breakaway members of the old Khmer Rouge party. Officials in Phnom Penh privately say the party has been kept under wraps because ordinary people might misinterpret the term "communist" and fear that a return to Khmer Rouge-style rule was imminent.
Defense Minister Pen Sovan is reliably reported to be the party's secretary general. Western analysts feel Sovan is the most influential man in Phnom Penh due to ties with Hanoi: he is said to have a Vietnamese wife, speak the language fluently and to have crossed to the Vietnamese camp years before President Heng Samrin and other government leaders did so in the late 1970s.
Official sources in Phom Penh believe that Pen Sovan will soon succeed Heng Samrin as head of state. Already the defense minister's daily routie -- welcoming visiting delegations and making speeches -- are receiving added attention from the offical media.