Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith instructed commune councils to inform the local population whenever restoration, development or construction work is undertaken by the commune authorities.

The cost should also be made public, as the people are the ones who are paying for it, he added.

On January 7, during a ceremony to announce the achievements of Wat Moha Leap in Koh Sotin district, Kampong Cham province, the minister called on the local commune council to inform the local people when there are plans for restoration, construction or development, so they would be aware of the decisions made by the council.

“Not only that, but they should also include detailed budgets for each project, as the people are the ones who elected the councils. I think commune councils across the country should follow this example,” he said.

Kanharith encouraged all local authorities to increase employment opportunities and the efficiency of public service provision, in accordance with the plans of the government.

“I recommended they follow the formula of ‘four aces plus one’. This refers to the combination of four leaders – the commune chief, commune clerk, police chief and village chief – plus the health centre, to ensure that each commune is working efficiently,” he said.

Many observers applauded his remarks, and called for his suggestions to be implemented across the Kingdom. This would allow citizens to make their own suggestions about work that was due to be undertaken.

Ou Chanrath, co-founder of the Cambodian Reform Party, said Kanharith’s appeal to provide additional information about development as part of standard procedure was a wise one, and should be implemented across the country. Previously, many people in each commune were unaware of what was planned.

“A transparent budget is an excellent way for voters to decide if their leaders are behaving appropriately or not. This is a really good example of a functioning democracy at the local level,” he added.

He also said it would allow the people on the ground to provide accurate feedback and suggestions to commune council plans, while providing transparency and social accountability.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun also hailed the minister’s statement.

“In order to have good governance, there must be transparency. Comprehensive information about each commune’s development process must be supplied to the public,” he said.

“Public announcements about the plan and their operating budgets will allow people to participate as much as possible,” he added.

Soeung Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group ADHOC, said that it was a good idea to provide information about development projects to the public. This should not be limited to the sub-national level, but should exist at the national level.