Interior Ministry officials were unsure yesterday about the legality of a Wednesday directive instructing commune chiefs to only use state allocated funds for the upkeep of commune halls, which coincided with ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak threatening the arrest of a Battambang chief for using her own funds to run the office.
On Wednesday, Sopheak made a thinly veiled threat to arrest O’Char Commune Chief Sin Rozeth for using her own funds to maintain the commune hall and for depicting projects using outside funds as Cambodia National Rescue Party achievements.
“Both leader and follower will go to jail,” he said Wednesday, referring to the detention of CNRP President Kem Sokha.
Yesterday, Chhan Chan Sopheak, an official at the General Administration Department of the ministry, said Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s Wednesday letter was a new instruction from the government but could not point to any law that could validate Sopheak’s threat.
“For this thing, I cannot answer you because it is very deep, it involves technicalities,” he said.
Tao Sok Mara, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s General Administration Department, confirmed her department issued the letter, but she did not understand its legal basis and referred questions to the spokesman, who could not be reached yesterday.
The Law on Commune/Sangkat Administrative Management stipulates that commune chiefs are expected to use state allocated budgets for development activities, but does not prohibit accepting donations and private contributions – an act routinely used by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.