A recently elected opposition commune chief, threatened with legal action for helping villagers build a canal to relieve flooding, has met a deadline imposed by provincial authorities to fix damage they say the excavation work inflicted upon an adjacent road built with donor funds.
Ven Samol, the Cambodia National Rescue Party chief of Choeung Prey commune, earlier this month drew the ire of Provincial Governor Kouch Chamreoun for helping constituents dig a road-side canal to alleviate flooding of rice fields.
The trouble came as an unexpected shock for the new chief – who was among 489 opposition candidates to win in June’s local elections – with Chamreoun threatening to take him to court for destruction of public property unless he fixed the road in 10 days.
Following the elections, observers had suggested that successful CNRP candidates could face obstructionism from higher-ups in the district and provincial bureaucracy, who are largely aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Caught between locals’ wishes and his superiors’ threats of legal action, Samol scraped together $1,350 in donations to revert the road back to its original state, but noted he was still in debt for about half of the figure.
Samol said he was also warned by District Chief Keo Bunnath about such unilateral undertakings. Bunnath said yesterday commune chiefs from the area were taught that they should formulate three-year development plans.