The Phnom Penh Municipal Council on Monday signed off on the creation of five new districts for the city and will now pass the proposal to the Ministry of Interior for review, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said Tuesday.
The plan for the new districts, which will be cut from the existing nine, was announced by City Hall earlier this month, with Mr. Dimanche saying the move will be completed before the May 18 district and city council elections.
“Municipal councilors have agreed with each other to create five new districts and we are preparing the suggestion to be sent to the Ministry of Interior to make improvements,” Mr. Dimanche said, adding that if the Ministry of Interior did not approve the new districts before May, changes to the districts could not be made until the next vote in 2019.
“We must create them before these council elections because it will make running administration easier,” he said.
Mr. Dimanche said that he did not have further information about the names of the districts.
He said councilors had only agreed that the new districts would be forged by cutting communes from Meanchey, Russei Keo, Chamkar Mon, Tuol Kok, Pur Senchey and Dangkao districts.
The redrawing of the districts before the elections, which will see the city’s 810 commune councilors turn out to vote in new councils, represents the largest change to the city’s administrative boundaries in decades.
Sen Sok district was created in 2009, while Pur Senchey district was created in 2011, requiring a “by-election” of commune councilors in the district to select its council.
Opposition CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said last week that the move to redraw district lines is likely an attempt to gerrymander district boundaries before the May elections to ensure that the CPP picks up the largest possible number of district councilor positions for the next mandate.
Mr. Dimanche said Tuesday that the move was purely for administrative purposes and was not intended to increase the number of CPP district councilors.
“We’re creating the new districts to strengthen public service and security in the capital city,” he said. “It’s an administrative issue and it’s not related to political problems.”
Meanchey district governor Kuoch Chamroeun said the creation of new councilor positions was positive.
“It will provide more jobs for our civil servants…[and] it will be good for providing services for people,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the focus on creating new positions for CPP apparatchiks was misplaced.
“What they should be doing now is curbing corruption and decreasing bureaucracy, but, on the contrary, if you approve five more districts, and make new councilors, you will increase bureaucracy and corruption,” Mr. Sovann said.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)