Days before Sunday’s election, Interior Minister Sar Kheng publicly promised money from his own pocket to help the poor in Prey Veng province.
It was decried at the time by some observers as blatant “vote-buying”, an attempt to shore up support in a “battleground” province that could fall to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Whatever the implicit message of the senior lawmaker’s offer, it failed to resonate: While the CPP carried the election, Prey Veng fell – carrying just five to the CNRP’s six seats.
The promise of $25 to pregnant women, $50 towards funeral costs for grieving families and up to $125 to those over 65 suffering from illness requiring hospital treatment presumably still stands.
The minister, who won his seat in Battambang on Sunday and heads the CPP’s working group in his home province of Prey Veng, could not be reached to confirm this, and his cabinet officials, Chhiv Mongkul and Chao Sothy, declined to comment.
Either way, Chheang Mab, 41, a villager in Prey Veng’s Kanh Chriech district, said he voted for the CNRP because he didn’t believe the CPP.
“We didn’t believe they would do what they said they would do – they break their promises,” he said.
CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha would be the ones helping the villagers now that everyone was no longer scared of “threats from the local authority”, he added.
Reached yesterday, Heng Danaro, a winning CNRP candidate in Prey Veng, declined to comment on Kheng’s promise, instead focusing on what he intended to bring to the province as a lawmaker.
“We’ll implement the policies we promised the villagers,” he said. “I suspect what they need are things we have offered them in our policies, but we cannot do anything for them right away because the official election results have not yet been released.”
Mab said he hoped the CNRP would focus on lowering gas and food prices, and providing water and electricity to every house.