Former Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong has resigned as a member of the National Assembly to stand for the chairmanship of the Phnom Penh Municipal Council.

In a press release on Thursday, the National Assembly announced his resignation and the appointment of Kim Sovanna to replace him.

Som Sorida, the deputy secretary-general at the National Election Committee (NEC), said Socheatvong’s name was at the top of the candidate list for the Phnom Penh constituency in the coming municipal election which would take place on May 26.

Speaking to The Post on Thursday, Socheatvong said the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had mandated him to “develop the sub-national levels”.

“The superiors wanted me to continue strengthening the sub-national levels. As the leader of the CPP for Phnom Penh, I have to be responsible for the party in general. However, strengthening local administrations is the most important thing."

“The government paid so much attention to the provincial and municipal levels with respect to the implementation of decentralisation and deconcentration, which are the key principles to strengthen democratic practices at the sub-national levels,” he said.

Socheatvong said his resignation was “not due to any problems”. “I have a mission assigned by Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen] to come to the city where I used to be based in and I have the knowledge of. Nothing more than that,” he said.

Socheatvong said he would “prioritise the strengthening of public services and management in areas ranging from political stability, security, social order, multi-sector development, et cetera”.

To achieve these objectives, he said, human resources “with high skills and potentials” would be required in making the sub-national levels “strong”.

“Human rights and democracy must start from the grassroots level. We have all of these at the national level. But the practices at the lower levels are still weak.

“Many of those who provide services lack transparency and accountability. They see themselves as the ‘boss of the citizen’, then they abuse their power,” he said, referring to the recent ousting of two deputy governors of Preah Sihanouk province due to misuse of power.

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said the procedure stipulates that a parliamentarian must resign before he could take another government position.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan stressed that the Phnom Penh Municipal Council chairman role bears “political” responsibilities, noting the council’s task to oversee the overall works of the city administrations.

Ou Chanrath, a former lawmaker of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said Socheatvong’s move from being a lawmaker at the national level to becoming a chairman at the municipal level “was not against procedures”.

“In my view, he may know more things at the city level. Therefore, it would be more effective if he returns. Normally, there is no return from a higher to a lower position. People usually go up [to a higher rank],” he said.

Cambodian Youth Party President Pich Sros said Socheatvong had all rights to return, but he said he was ‘not optimistic about the return’.

“When he was the municipal [Phnom Penh] governor, we saw little developments and solutions to problems [in the city]. There would not be much improvement now that he [might] return, for it is the same person, not a new generation,” he said.