Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday instructed police officials and local authorities to serve the people without considering political affiliations or religion.
In the handover ceremony of 1,646 motorbikes to police stations nationwide, Kheng told police officials that they must serve the people regardless of political leanings or religion, and that they need to resolve people’s problems regardless of which party they belong to.
“Police officials have an obligation to help all people, not only one group, and to protect them without discrimination. Commune councils and chiefs who receive the people’s mandate have an obligation to help the community to ensure the security and development of their communities and livelihoods,” he said.
Kheng said if local leaders do not have good vision and resort to political, racial or religious discrimination, it would lead to divisions within their communities.
He said village leaders, in particular, must bring harmony to their village, lest fragmentation and division take root.
“People can join a political party. It is their business and we must respect their rights and decisions. It is their business to join a party … We should not think that this person is with this party and that person is with that party … Thinking like that violates the law. So please, do not discriminate,” Kheng said.
Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections executive director Sam Kuntheamy said in Cambodia, issuing such instructions won’t eliminate discrimination or labelling at the local level.
“Racial and political discrimination has been happening in Cambodia for a long time, despite government leaders addressing it.
“We can see that the Ministry of Interior has issued such instructions many times, but it keeps happening in the village and by commune chiefs and commune councils. They discriminate on the basis of political leanings,” he said.
People with political persuasions that are different from village and commune officials, he said, found it difficult to receive public services at the commune hall.
However, he agreed that if they can end the practice of discrimination, communities can better develop and grow.
A former lawmaker with the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, Cheam Channy, said: “The instruction is the right thing and I support his speech, but officials at the local level continue to discriminate.”