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CPP’s political grudge? Purported memo suggests cutting funds to CNRP-aligned communes

Opposition leader Kem Sokha greets supporters during a CNRP campaign rally yesterday in Prey Veng province. Facebook
Opposition leader Kem Sokha greets supporters during a CNRP campaign rally in Prey Veng province. Facebook

CPP’s political grudge? Purported memo suggests cutting funds to CNRP-aligned communes

Opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday visited Kandal’s Sa’ang and Koh Thom districts, where his party won large at Sunday’s commune elections, mocking in a public speech a purported ruling party document that requests funding to the areas be cut “to make the people who voted for the opposition experience difficulties”.

Sokha appeared to be referring to a six-page postmortem apparently sent to Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, head of the CPP working group for Sa’ang, in which a local party official attempts to explain the ruling party’s large losses there and offer suggestions.

The opposition won 11 out 16 communes in Sa’ang district and 10 out 11 in Koh Thom, having won none in either in 2012, and Sokha told supporters the allegedly leaked document showed the Cambodian People’s Party was going to cut funding for the area as punishment.

“This is a misunderstanding from the CPP that could make the CPP continue to lose more at the 2018 national election, when it’s the CPP that holds the national budget and they do not do development,” Sokha said during a speech in Sa’ang.

“They said, ‘Let the Cambodia National Rescue Party do it’,” Sokha continued. “Therefore, they are letting us win in 2018, brothers and sisters.”

A copy of the alleged post-mortem obtained by The Post bears the signature of Prum Sopheak Mongkol, head of the CPP’s working group in Teuk Vil commune, which the CNRP won with 3,621 votes to the CPP’s 1,783 – according to National Election Committee data – after losing it with 1,875 votes to the CPP’s 2,792 in 2012.

The CPP in Sa’ang “should stop distributing funds through the transfer of the budget to help the destitute families, to the families of those who have died and to developing achievements at the local level”, it says.

It also asks the CPP’s top leaders “to delay infrastructure projects that we had promised to start now until the 2018 election, to make the people who voted for the opposition experience difficulties for a while” to make them think twice about their vote in 2018.

“If we do [deliver funds], they will say ‘Do you see? [The CNRP] only just won some commune chief positions and immediately they start making roads, digging canals, clearing out the creeks, etc’ until they have cheated and politically profited from us,” the document says.

The post-mortem did not specify whether it was referring to state funds, or funds distributed by the ruling party itself.

Neither Sokhonn, the foreign minister, nor Sopheak Mongkol, the alleged author of the post-mortem, could be reached for comment yesterday. However, Chrin Srieng, the defeated CPP commune chief for Teuk Vil, said he was not aware of the document.

Srieng said he too was unable to reach Sopheak Mongkol about the alleged leak and Sokha’s speech, but said that he doubted the document’s authenticity.

“How could we stop development? It’s our work; we must do development for the people, and our development projects must continue,” Srieng said, adding such a message would go against the CPP’s ethos.

“Speaking like that is bad. What’s important is that we love our citizens and that we would not do anything like this,” the former chief said. “How could we do anything like that? We serve our citizens honestly.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that he could not comment on authenticity of the document, with it having allegedly come from a commune-level official of the ruling party, but said that the document’s message in no way reflected the government’s policies.

“This is an individual’s business,” Eysan said. “The government led by the CPP will still continue to enforce its role in development . . . without discriminating against any politi-cal trends – even if the CPP lost in the commune elections at any commune.”

Yet some CNRP commune chiefs said they were concerned that may not be the case. Cheang Neang, the incoming chief of O’Bek Ka Orm commune in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, said he believed the CPP government would inevitably tighten its purse strings a bit.

The opposition picked up almost 500 of the country’s 1,646 communes at Sunday’s election after winning only 40 in 2012, and Neang said having different parties running communes and the national government may inevitably lead to some political wrangling.

“They won’t drop down money for us easily, being afraid of continuing this political trend,” he said, adding he doubted it would be a big issue. “We have different leaders, so it’s difficult. I have thought about this but we will provide the services people need.”

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