The government has established three new towns – Sampov Poun and Arey Ksat in Kandal province and Oudong Me Chey in Kampong Speu – following requests from the Ministry of Interior, according to a sub-decree issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 23.

On the Vietnamese border, Sampov Poun town comprises five communes – all split from Koh Thom district. These are: Chhoeu Khmao, Prek Chrey, Prek Speu, Chroy Takeo and the administrative capital of Sampov Poun.

Arey Ksat town encompasses 11 communes: Bak Dav, Oknha Tei, Prek Ampil, Prek Luong Prek Takov and Svay Chrum taken from Khsach Kandal district; and Arey Ksat, Sarikakeo, Peam Oknha Ong, Prek Kmeng and Barong separated from Lvea Em district. The administrative capital will be in the eponymous commune.

Kampong Speu province’s former Oudong district was partitioned into Oudong Me Chey town and Samaki Monichey district.

Oudong Me Chey town will have five communes: Vaing Chas, Trach Tong, Preah Sre, Ksem Ksan and Veal Pong, the last of which will house the town hall.

Samaki Monichey district will take the remaining 10 communes Chan Sen, Champou Proek, Kraing Chek, Meanchey, Prey Krasaing, Yuth Samaki, Damnak Raing, Paing Lvea, Phnom Touch and Choeung Ras, the

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said that based on the most recent census, the current population of Cambodia is about 18 million. He was of the view that he saw no necessity to create new towns or districts, or even communes.

“If the population density becomes so high that it is difficult to control the delivery of public services, then it may be appropriate. I have not seen any evidence of this. It is also important to consider the costs of creating new administrative areas,” he added.

“There has not been a particularly strong recovery from Covid-19, so there is no need for the administration to manage anything. They should only be established to meet the needs of the people, and their best interests,” he continued.

He said he was concerned about the increase in state spending that the establishment of new towns represented, particularly as the Kingdom’s economic growth has slowed in the wake of the pandemic.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the government’s decision to create new towns, districts or communes was based on the demands of economic growth and population increases. Ultimately, their goal was to move public service provision closer to the grassroots, he added.