Each of Cambodia’s provinces have been asked to get “creative” and produce half-hour propaganda videos showcasing their “achievements”, with the Information Ministry ordering them to be made before the upcoming elections in July.
Ministry of Information spokesman Ouk Kimseng said on Thursday that Information Minister Khieu Kanharith had informed all 24 provincial Information Departments, as well as the department in Phnom Penh Municipality, to look at the “achievements” their localities have made for society.
“That’s the government’s policy, because what we have done, we have to show,” he said.
As the “government is the CPP”, he said, the videos would naturally mention the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Of course,” he said of the CPP being mentioned in the clips, “because the majority is the CPP.”
With the CPP’s Hun Sen at the helm as Prime Minister since 1985, the words “government” and “CPP” are often used interchangeably in Cambodia.
In November, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the only viable opposition party, was forcibly dissolved in a case widely perceived to be politically motivated.
The government-run AKP newswire said Kanharith also told the provincial information departments that the video clips had to be “creative” in order to make sure they became “popular”. Kanharith couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday, but AKP reported he said the videos should be completed three months ahead of the July elections.
Kimseng listed road connections, health care and public services, such as the issuance of birth certificates and identification cards, as some of the government’s achievements. However, medical experts have noted that the country’s health care system, in particular, has long struggled to improve its poor quality of services.
He said there had also been reforms on good governance, but wasn’t able to give specific examples.
“I cannot answer on behalf of people in each locality,” he said. “But what I can say is that the government has instructed local governments to provide better services, the best we can provide.”
It is unclear when the videos will be aired, but Kimseng said it must be in accordance with the Election Law, which outlines that the campaigning period typically lasts 30 days and ends 24 hours before the polls open.
Him Yun, with the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, said the government should be careful with “any action that can violate the law”, as airing campaign videos outside the election campaign would be illegal.
“The achievements of the government should be shown during the election campaign,” he said.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the National Election Committee, said a party can develop videos, but they should only air “during the period of the political party campaigning”.
Those parties who produce TV spots should use their own finances, Puthea added.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said voters wouldn’t be fooled by propaganda.
“Citizens are now smart enough to decide and judge” what achievements have actually been accomplished, he said.