Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New commune chiefs sworn in, with CNRP unconcerned about CPP interference



New commune chiefs sworn in, with CNRP unconcerned about CPP interference

The deputy director of City Hall's administration office, Lim Leng (left), hands over the commune chief stamp to Srey Nhean (right), the newly elected chief of Phnom Penh's Chak Angre Leu commune.
The deputy director of City Hall's administration office, Lim Leng (left), hands over the commune chief stamp to Srey Nhean (right), the newly elected chief of Phnom Penh's Chak Angre Leu commune. Pha Lina

New commune chiefs sworn in, with CNRP unconcerned about CPP interference

The process of swearing in commune councillors across the country began yesterday, marking the start of their five-year terms in local administration, with opposition commune chiefs saying they were undeterred by Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s comments last week instructing ruling party officials to keep opposition commune chief activities in check.

The swearing-in ceremonies are being conducted at each commune and will be completed over the next few days. In all, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 1,156 communes, to the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 489 in the June 4 elections.

In Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Leu commune, newly elected CNRP Commune Chief Srey Nhean and the commune’s 10 councillors yesterday were sworn in to an audience of party officials and constituents at a local pagoda adorned with golden statues and paintings of scenes from the Buddha’s life.

After delivering his final report, outgoing CPP chief Keo Savoeun – now second deputy chief – carried out a ceremonial handing over of the commune’s official documents and stamp to Nhean.

“We will serve the people to the best of our [ability], help them as fast as they need, and with no corruption,” Nhean said.

Savoeun, meanwhile, said he bore Nhean no ill will. “I will cooperate with him. I know I lost some support, but I think if I keep doing good to people they will again support me,” he said.

While Chak Angre Leu’s ceremonies went off without incident, in Poipet town’s Phsar Kandal commune, the two major parties had differences over the arrangements. “I wanted to have a tent for people who wanted to join the ceremony, but the former commune chief disagreed with my idea,” said new CNRP Commune Chief Khun Chanty, adding that despite the disagreement, the ceremony went ahead smoothly.

Cheat Hul, the former Phsar Kandal Commune Chief, declined to comment on the disagreement.

CNRP member Srey Nhean speaks to the press after taking over as Chak Angre Leu's commune chief.
CNRP member Srey Nhean speaks to the press after taking over as Chak Angre Leu's commune chief. Pha Lina

Opposition commune chiefs will begin their terms under the shadow of Sar Kheng’s comments, made at the inauguration of new Phnom Penh Governor Khoung Sreng, in which he made thinly veiled instructions to keep close tabs on opposition chiefs.

In the speech, he said CPP-controlled local government at the capital’s City Hall and at the provincial level would reject administrative decisions it did not agree with.

“We need to observe whether commune council decisions are right or wrong and legal or not,” he said. “The intervention does not mean we deny their decisions but ask them to take it back to review it.”

The minister even mentioned reviewing or tweaking guidelines overseeing the functioning of commune chiefs, though he did not elaborate on the specifics. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.

The comments did little to discourage fears that the ruling party would use its near-total control of state institutions to stymie newly elected opposition officials’ efforts at the commune level.

CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua said yesterday that it was disappointing to hear the minister’s remarks, given that the opposition had clearly been given a mandate to run nearly 500 communes around the country.

“If the government and Ministry of Interior give us a tough time, it will be inappropriate and not a good sign,” she said, adding that CNRP commune chiefs would try to work with their counterparts on the other side of the aisle to serve their constituents.

She said the party was training its commune chiefs to understand the laws governing their activities, and had asked them to be careful in executing their jobs. However, any obstructionism by the CPP, she said, would backfire on the ruling party.

“If the CPP wants to lose more votes, then they should obstruct our commune chiefs,” she said. “That is their old style.”

But new commune chiefs seemed unfazed by Kheng’s comments, saying they would continue to work for the people in a bipartisan manner.

Chak Angre Leu’s Savoeun said he had worked well with his CPP counterparts and did not expect district or provincial officials to interfere in his duties. “I have no concerns, because we know that whatever I do will have to comply with the law,” he said.

In Kandal’s Takdol commune, new CNRP Commune Chief San Chamroeun said members from both parties were bound to have political differences but that he would find a way around that to ensure the people get the services they need.

“I am not concerned over that because government’s development process is to develop all communes. So I believe officials will not make any obstacles to communes led by the CNRP,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and