AUTHORITIES in Russey Keo district’s Kilometre 6 commune briefly held up a sand lorry Monday morning in a bid to draw attention to accusations against a former commune chief, who they say has continued to skim profits from sand-transport fees in his new role as a district councillor.
Sok Khim, the chief of Russey Keo’s Kilometre 6 commune and a member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said on Monday that authorities delayed the lorry from delivering sand in the commune in an attempt to persuade district authorities to address a complaint he filed on April 30.
In 2008, former commune chief Sok Sambath defected to the Cambodian People’s Party and took up posts as a Russey Keo district councillor and as an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In the April 30 complaint, Sok Khim accused him of continuing to regulate the transport of sand, and of profiting from sand-transport fees that rightfully belong to the commune.
“According to the government’s decentralisation policy, all activities in the commune must be dealt with by commune authorities,” he said. “District officials have violated this law.”
He said that each time a lorry transports sand to the commune, a US$1 fee should be paid to the commune.
“This situation is politically motivated because I am a commune chief from the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “Other commune chiefs in Russey Keo district have never had such an experience.”
Sok Sambath denied having ever profited illegally from the fees, but noted that he had passed some of his responsibilities on to the district authorities.
“People know that during my time as commune chief, I worked very hard for the people. I did not take money from the sand trucks. Instead, I asked the sand companies to give two out of every 100 truckloads of sand for the development of the commune,” he said.
The accusations against him, he said, are “totally unfounded”. “This new SRP commune chief does not do things like me,” he said. “These authorities only want money.”
Real Khemrin, an SRP representative on the Phnom Penh municipal council, said Monday that Russey Keo district governor Khlaing Huot had so far failed to schedule any meetings about the complaint.
He echoed Sok Khim’s claim that the current arrangement amounts to discrimination against the SRP, and added that he believes the Cambodian People’s Party is trying to gain a “political advantage” by maintaining control of responsibilities that should fall to the commune chief.
Koub Sles, the deputy governor of Russey Keo district, said on Monday that he had received the complaint against Sok Sambath in April, but that he had determined the allegations to be baseless.
“Even after Sok Sambath left his job as commune chief, he still worked to develop the commune because his house is there,” he said.
“What he has done does not violate decentralisation. It actually supports decentralisation because district officials are now developing the commune for the people.”