Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday said the popular appeal of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s pledge to substantially boost commune budgets posed a “huge problem” for the ruling party.
Addressing CPP supporters in Siem Reap, the four-star general acknowledged there was concern in the party about the level of competition it faced at the June 4 commune elections.
In particular, Banh pointed to the opposition’s pledge to drastically increase commune budgets to $500,000, which he said had “hit the right spot”, telling attendees “we must talk about it”.
“In the 2013 parliamentary election [the CNRP] gained a little bit, and we acknowledged that, however it was not the winner. [After this the party] kept raising the same things and kept shouting ‘change, change’.”
“But the new thing is handing the power [to communes]. [The party] has put [its policy] in the right place for its need for support from commune councillors, especially our communes,” he said, calling for unity in the party. “We absolutely must win the commune election.”
Despite restrictions on security personnel campaigning, many high-ranking members of the police and military are, like Banh, in charge of CPP working groups for entire provinces.
The party has deflected concerns over the security forces’ neutrality in the past, and has insisted the campaigning does not violate rules because it is done out of uniform and during off-hours.
Kem Sokha, meanwhile, continued to push his message yesterday, accusing the CPP of underfunding local governments. “If there is no money, don’t speak about development,” he said.
Additional reporting by Meas Sokchea