Six Phnom Penh communes that backed the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party at the 2013 national election were carved up yesterday in a move some analysts feared was politically motivated.
The municipality divided Stung Meanchey and Choam Chao into three communes each. Boeung Tompun, Kakab, Tuol Sangke, and Phnom Penh Thmey communes were each split in two.
The move adds a total of nine new communes and, consequently, nine new commune chief positions, and seats for nine commune councils.
The divisions were first mooted in November 2015.
Phnom Penh city spokesman Mean Chanyada said the new communes were being created to address issues such as a growing population, geography and socioeconomic issues. “One commune has only 10 state officials to provide public services to the people,” he said.
All six communes voted for the opposition in 2013, according to data from Open Development Cambodia.
Koul Panha, of election monitor Comfrel, said the government had a history of redrawing boundaries for political gain. In 2013, the CNRP stronghold of Kampong Cham was split in two, with all five districts that voted CPP placed in the new province of Tbong Khmum.
“There are many, many communes with very high population density,” Panha said, wondering why these communes were chosen.
San Chey, of the accountability watchdog ANSA-EAP, said the decision looked “political”, adding the city “should increase public services rather than increasing the amount of communes”.
Additional reporting by Khouth Sophak Chakrya