Commune Clerks Graduate With Gov’t Support

Women are being given special priority by the Ministry of Interior as it chooses commune clerks to administer local government after February’s commune council elections, co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said.

Ninety clerks from 76 communes in Phnom Penh comple­ted a six-week training session Friday. At a graduation ceremony at Phnom Penh city hall, Sar Kheng told the clerks they must help all registered voters go to the polls in the February election.

He said equal opportunity should be given to all parties and warned against violence and intimidation.

Noting that about 10 trainees have bachelor degrees and many more are university students, Sar Kheng told the graduates that they “have high ability compared to clerk candidates in the pro­vinces.” Before preparation for the February elections began earlier this year, there were no “high ability people who volunteered to work in communes,” he said.

Trainees studied 18 subjects, including constitutional law, government and the penal code. Selections for posts de­pends on scores from the training. The positions are non-elective.

“But to encourage women, the Ministry of Interior has decided to give priority to women candidates,” Sar Kheng said.

The large majority of the trainees, both men and women, looked to be in their twenties. That included Chreuong Bun Seng, who recently received his bachelor’s degree and said he would like to run for a position as  commune chief in the future.

“I am happy because I got a job as soon as I finished studying. I don’t care which political party wins because my mandate for being a clerk is for seven years. It is possible that I would work with a commune chief from one party after the first election and then a chief from another party for the next election,” he said.

Chan Sophea, an undergraduate, said she became a clerk because she wants to inform women about their political rights. She too would like to run for commune chief someday, she said.

Election monitoring groups have expressed fears the commune clerk postings will be politicized because candidates will be chosen by Ministry of Interior officials.

Human rights workers have worried the appointed clerks may have more influence than the elected commune council and that the central government will continue to play a key role in communes.

In April, Ministry of Interior general director for the department of administration Sak Setha said preference would be given to civil servants and commune workers in filling the clerk positions. International donors don’t want clerk jobs filled by inexperienced students, he said.

Nearly 5,000 people took an examination for the 1,621 posts in March. Officials said 1,830 applicants passed, including about 800 students. A total of 1,900 clerks and back-up clerks will eventually be assigned to commune posts.


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