The government has established a new district in Kampong Thom province called “Taing Kouk”, consisting of eight communes carved out of Baray district, in the province.

Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the sub-decree on January 8 and it was obtained by The Post on Tuesday.

The new district will help improve administrative management, said government officials, but civil society groups said public services should be improved rather than establish a new district.

The eight communes in Taing Kouk are Pongro, Chra Neang, Chrolong, Triel, Soyong, Svay Phloeung, Sralao and Andong Por. Taing Kouk’s administrative boundary would follow an annexe map which will include the sub-decree.

The sub-decree added that the district hall will be located in Soyong commune. The district’s structure and administrative management will comply with the Law on Administrative Management of the Capital, Provinces, Municipalities, Districts and Khans.

Kampong Thom Provincial Governor Sok Lou told The Post on Tuesday that the new district was established according to the requirements of the local administration as the administrative area of Baray district is huge.

This, he said made it very difficult for villagers to access services from the district hall as they needed to travel long distances to avail themselves of public services.

“I think [creating a new district] is good because Baray district is bigger than some provinces and consisted of 18 communes."

“Now, eight communes will form Taing Kouk district, which means Baray district is left with only 10 communes. This is a reasonable number for administrative management and makes it easier for villagers,” he said.

Baray district hall, he said, will be kept at the same location, while Soyong commune hall will be converted into the Taing Kouk district hall.

Lou said those who criticised the establishment of the new district failed to understand the difficulties facing local villagers or the management of the public administration.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (Ansa) executive director San Chey said government officials often claimed that creating new provinces or new districts serves to offer better public services to villagers and improve administrative management.

However, there was no need to create new districts based on such reasons. The government can increase the number of government officials and encourage civil servants to be more proactive in their work.

“Personally, I think there is no need to form a new [district]. To have efficient management, the government needs to improve the capacity of the officers or improve human resources, set aside a budget to improve district administration, and develop other plans to improve government management,” he said.

Chey said creating a new district is a waste of the national budget. If the government improves the quality of the existing people, it does not need to take a lot of money from the national budget.

Kampong Thom province has a total land area of 13,814sq km. It is located in the middle of Cambodia. The province consists of eight districts and cities, 81 communes and 734 villages.

With one additional district created, Kampong Thom province will now have a total of nine districts and cities – Stung Sen city, Baray, Kampong Svay, Prasat Balang, Prasat Sambor, Sandan, Santuk, Stoung and the newly created Taing Kouk district.