Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on December 10 reiterated a call for administrative and police chiefs as well as clerks at the commune and village levels to fulfil their duties developing the communities under their jurisdictions.

Sar Kheng made the remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new four-story building on the campus of Preah Monivong High School on National Road 5 just west of the Thma Thmey Bridge over the Sangke River in northern Svay Por commune’s Prek Moha Tep village of central Battambang town.

“Perform your tasks appropriately and strengthen the community, the livelihoods of the people, their safety and improve local development,” Sar Kheng instructed local officials in a Facebook post.

He emphasised that reforms at the sub-national level must not remain hypothetical and must actually be put into practice and put under thorough scrutiny to ensure they are working in order to satisfy the public.

“With the country at peace, all officials must at this point in time strive to serve the people and provide them with better public services. Our mission is to work for the people,” Sar Kheng said.

The fifth commune council elections are scheduled for June 5, he noted, describing the vote as a crucial event towards strengthening multi-party democracy in the Kingdom and improving the livelihoods of Cambodians. He emphasised that all candidates must have solid human resource skills and competencies.

Lam Socheat, executive director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, said on December 12 that the four groups of local officials – commune chief, commune police chief, commune clerk and village chief – play important roles in providing public services directly to the people as part of their daily work.

They are also the ones who manage public order, solve social problems and oversee community development on a daily basis.

He said the four groups of officials need further training to make them capable of meeting the needs of the local people who never run out of problems for the authorities to solve.

“They have to be capable of using technology to get information on local issues and pay attention to what is being posted on social media. They don’t need to wait for someone to complain, they should be proactive.

“They can look at comments people have made on social media regarding problems in their community and the problems people raise through the word of mouth or what they see with their eyes,” Socheat said.

He said local officials should also work on solving problems outside the judicial system without charging additional “unofficial service fees”. Some people have refrained from filing complaints to their commune halls to solve their conflicts because they believe that both sides will lose in the end when they have to pay these unofficial fees.

“They should solve problems transparently with participation from relevant stakeholders and from the parties involved in the conflict,” he said.