Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and the national working group to support sub-national administrators met on Tuesday at the ministry to discuss ways to resolve the challenges facing the people in Battambang and Prey Veng provinces.
Ministry secretary of state Sak Setha said: “We discussed what challenges face the authorities at the commune and district level.
“For all outstanding issues, reports must be made to the national level so we can review them with the relevant ministries and institutions to find solutions.”
Setha said the national working group, which is chaired by Sar Kheng, had visited both provinces to hold public forums with local people and collect information about the challenges that needed to be resolved.
He said the group has been asked to address several issues, including land conflicts, delays in providing public services and infrastructure issues such as problems with roads and canals.
Setha said these challenges called for different approaches, and the national working group had been categorising them in a specific way to be classified into specific sectors.
The commune, district and provincial authorities will attempt to solve the problems, he said, and the national working group will handle any issues where a solution cannot be found with the relevant ministries and institutions.
“This approach is good because the public forums are very participatory and the people raise issues with the working group about the challenges and concerns related to their daily lives.
“These forums have a lot of support from grassroots villagers,” Setha said.
Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister, said at Tuesday’s meeting that earlier this month the national working group had collected more than 600 challenges through public forums in Battambang province and some 300 in Prey Veng province.
He said he had ordered his officials to patiently collect information from local people, carefully record their comments and not oppose their opinions and ideas when they differed with what the officials wanted to hear.
Sar Kheng insisted that the working group should listen carefully and attempt to resolve issues to ensure that the government does not make mistakes or come in for undue criticism.
“These forums are being held to be more inclusive. We listened and encouraged them to express their opinions about land disputes, farming issues, their livelihoods and security.
“All the issues raised by the people, whether they were resolved promptly or not, have been added to a list of concerns to be solved step-by-step.
“The government will address the challenges and update the people in due course,” he said.
Cooperation Committee for Cambodia executive director Soeung Saroeun welcomed the working group’s methods and said it was trying to empower sub-national administrators to provide services, promote local development and solve all problems at the local level.
“Any forum that provides an opportunity for local people to raise their concerns is good for villagers. If they adhere to the hierarchy and the group’s working methods, it’s a good thing, because some local concerns are related to national issues,” he said.