More than a week after newly elected commune chiefs were sworn in, an opposition commune chief in Siem Reap has complained that his predecessor had locked the office he was meant to occupy, impeding his administrative work.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s Sala Kamroeuk commune chief, Chen Sokngeng, said the outgoing commune chief, Sam Lan, had locked the commune chief’s office and told him to find another room instead.
“He is not commune chief so why does he still want the commune chief’s room? The room should be given to the new elected [chief],” he said.
Sokngeng said he has been unable to enter the room since he was sworn in on July 3, and said Lan’s refusal to vacate the room would be an inauspicious start to their working together on the commune council. He added that he was looking into what actions he can take to get back the room.
For his part, Lan said that Sokngeng was making a mountain out of a molehill, noting the commune office was previously a Buddhist religious hall and he just created a room for himself in the building. “There is a big space and plenty of tables and chairs. I told him to prepare another room for work. Why do we have to argue over just a tiny problem?” he said.
Two similar cases were reported in Phnom Penh and Prea Sihanouk province last week. In Preah Sihanouk, CNRP Commune 1 Chief Ouk Chettany said the former CPP chief also refused to vacate the commune chief’s office, citing his long-term use of the room, which contained all his administrative documents.
Reached yesterday, Chettany said he had decided to drop the issue, despite reporting the incident to the provincial governor, saying he will find another office in order to ensure a harmonious working environment with his CPP predecessor, Chhit Sophat, who is now first deputy chief. “I will announce in the upcoming [commune] meeting that I will hand over that room to [Sophat] to encourage him to work well with us,” he said.
In Phnom Penh’s Veal Vong commune, new chief Chhout Chhath said outgoing chief Keo Sakol had refused to vacate her room, and he was instead working out of the office’s meeting room. Chhath could not be reached yesterday but his first deputy, Heng Seang Leang, said Sakol had finally agreed to leave the office on Friday.
In another handover hiccup, CNRP Poipet Commune Chief Chao Veasna, in Banteay Meanchey, missed his swearing in on account of being in pre-trial detention for allegedly inciting a riot at the border town’s customs office in 2015.
While he is still commune chief, Veasna had delegated authority to his fellow opposition member and First Deputy Chief Kang Sokhoeun, Sokhoeun said, adding that he was still taking occasional instructions from the jailed chief on administrative matters. “He called to remind me to work for the people and try to avoid internal conflict. He called from the prison phone, so I cannot call him back.”