Kampong Thom provincial authorities have suspended Damrei Slab village chief Luong Lok from his position for allegedly using an IDPoor card that did not belong to him in order to receive cash benefits which he then provided to his daughter.
The IDPoor benefits are only for poor and economically vulnerable citizens affected by Covid-19.
Kampong Svay district governor Un Both confirmed to The Post on February 17 that Lok had been suspended after he failed to provide money to a 61-year-old woman named Khum Nav who rightfully holds the IDPoor card.
He said the 61-year-old had gone to live with her son in Battambang province but the village chief retained her card claiming that it was in case she eventually returned. Lok then used the card to collect government benefits meant for the woman from last June onward.
Both explained that Lok had been receiving 140,000 riel ($35) per month which added up to a total amount of more than one million riel by the time the case came to light.
He said Lok had claimed that he had attempted to contact the elderly women several times so that he could give her the money but that he was unable to reach her.
Both said Lok’s daughter is also poor and that she had returned from Thailand at some point, so Lok had then given the card to his daughter so that she could receive the 140,000 riel a month to buy rice.
“The elderly woman, Nav, has made no complaint because she went to live in Battambang province with her son. Given that fact, she is no longer poor because her son is rich. But not knowing this and out of pity the village chief kept collecting the money for her,” Both said.
He further explained that it was Nav’s son who had filed a complaint against Lok for taking his mother’s money, whereupon Lok had offered to pay them eight month’s worth of compensation – but the son had refused to accept the offer.
Both elaborated that he had called in Lok for questioning about this alleged misconduct. He said Lok made two mistakes, first by giving the card to his daughter and second by registering her for IDPoor without following legal procedures.
Both said he will investigate Lok’s misconduct further after the suspension, saying the money that Nav’s son refused to accept will go towards the national budget.
Damrei Slap commune chief Yoeng Heab said when Lok was contacted about the situation, he had handed her the IDPoor card and paid the money he had received to her – since she was his commune chief – so that she could give it to Nav or her son.
According to Heab, this case has been in mediation on several occasions but the son has refused to accept any resolution and had instead filed a complaint with the Kampong Svay district.
“In fact, this whole situation came about because the village chief felt pity for the elderly woman. He used the card to collect the money for her when she returns. But Nav’s son is not happy about it,” she said.
Nav’s son, Hoarn Cheakhoeng, said the former village chief had fraudulently taken the money from the government.
“The government provided this money to help the poor. And when the commune and village officials behave like this, people aren’t going to be happy about it. But if the money goes back to the state now, that’s fine,” he said.