Just a month since their election, the leaders of the nation’s apex rice industry have cast a motion to extend their terms – a move some have greeted with suspicion.
On Friday, the board of directors of the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) announced it would put a vote to the federation’s members on whether or not to double the length of its mandate from two years to four.
CRF secretary-general Moul Sarith said the decision was aimed at ensuring the board had sufficient time to fulfil its master plan for shoring up the Kingdom’s struggling rice sector.
“The board council members decided and agreed to delay the mandate from two years to four years, because they thought that [two years] was too short to achieve their plan,” he said. “We will put it to the CRF members in the annual meeting next July and ask them to vote on it.”
He said the extended mandate would become official if more than half of the federation’s members approve it.
CRF president Sok Puthyvuth could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Puthyvuth, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and son-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen, was re-elected as CRF president at its annual general meeting in July after receiving 113 out of a total 215 votes.
Twelve board council members were also chosen at the meeting, with an additional five appointed by Puthyvuth.
Their position puts them at the helm of the apex industry body for the nation’s most important crop – a powerful role in a traditionally agrarian economy where nearly 80 per cent of eligible voters are in rural areas.
Chan Sokheang, CEO of Asian Parboiled Rice Co Ltd and a CRF member, said the push for a longer mandate was suspiciously timed and required a solid explanation.
“It’s strange that they didn’t decide to change the length of the mandate before the elections, but now [suddenly they want to],” he said.
While Sokheang admitted that a two-year mandate was “a bit short,” he said CRF board members would have a chance to extend their mandate another two years in the next election. However, by changing the term to four years, other members would be excluded from any leadership role for an additional two years.
“Other members will get less opportunity [to be elected] as president or council board members,” he said.
Te Taing Por, president of the Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia (FASMEC) – the lone candidate to oppose Puthyvuth in the last election – declined to comment on the CRF board’s call to extend its mandate. However, he insisted he still plans to run for president in the next board election.
That, however, may be four years from now.Tang Chhong Ngy, marketing manager of rice miller LBN Angkor (Kampuchea) and a CRF member, said he had no issue with the board’s call to extend its mandate, adding that this would give the leadership more time to see results from their industry strategies.
“This is not about self-interest,” he said, adding that a longer mandate “would be a positive for the rice sector”.
“Time also has an impact on results,” he said. “If it is too short, it is hard to take action.”
In any case, Ngy added, there was nobody else out there better suited than those on the board to solve the issues facing the rice industry.