The Ministry of Planning has identified 20,000 more poor families in the country, bringing the total to over 580,000, while over 420,000 of them have received the government’s cash assistance.

In the meantime, many social security cards from families not deemed to be poor have been revoked.

Ministry spokesman Nop Kornavuth told The Post that the 20,000 additional poor families were surveyed during the second round of a government initiative to identify poor families for assistance in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The poor families total 580,000. In the first round, there were more than 560,000. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation said on July 2 that more than 420,000 poor families received a cash handout.

“The Department of Planning has revoked social security cards from the more well-off families. But a working group is taking a further headcount of poor families,” he said.

However, Kornavuth said many local people had filed complaints with the ministry over the cash assistance. That’s why Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the ministry to review existing mechanisms to prevent irregularities.

“We will examine the irregularities to solve the cases. We facilitate the cash assistance and it goes towards really poor families. Other families which are not poor cannot be allowed to get social security cards,” he said.

The Ministry of Planning said in a Facebook post that a meeting was held on Monday to examine the irregularities and implement measures to ensure only poor families received financial assistance.

The post further said that if commune and district councils can’t fix irregularities themselves, they need to cooperate with planning departments in Phnom Penh and the provinces to help solve the issue.

“The ministry will join [the departments] in examining and solving those irregularities and can work to prevent social security cards from being issued to families which are not poor,” it said.

The president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace Yang Kim Eng said the government had to expand its scope and set up evaluation committees to solve the issue faster.

The ministry said since the handout programme was launched, some people had protested as they wanted to receive social security cards and become eligible for the financial assistance.

The ministry further said some families in Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Svay Rieng provinces were found to have invalid social security cards.

Most of these families were not poor. They saw poor families being given cash and they wanted to receive the cash as well, the ministry said.