Commune Councilors Unanimously Vote Down Donation Box

A group of Phnom Penh commune councilors on Thursday unanimously voted against reinstalling a donation box that villagers had placed in the office of a newly-elected opposition commune chief’s office to help fund local services.

CNRP commune chief Sam Choeun, who came under fire from ruling party peers and higher-ups for allowing the box in his office in Toul Sangke II commune, said he would be more “cautious” in the future.

The donation box was installed last Friday by villagers as the national budget funding had been delayed, Mr. Choeun said at the time.

It was removed two days later after it was reported to Russei Keo district governor Chea Pisey.

On Thursday, the group of seven commune councilors—including Mr. Choeun—voted not to bring the box back amid concerns that the process lacked transparency, Mr. Choeun said.

Deputy commune chief Uk Khema, who originally reported the donation box, said he feared it could be used illegally as bribes for commune officials to do favors for villagers.

But Mr. Choeun said he had only voted it down to make peace within the office, as there was nothing in the law banning the practice.

“I decided to agree with them,” he said. “I only lost now in order to win something another day.”

Mr. Choeun added that community members had continued bringing donations after the box’s removal, including fans and chairs.

But the incident had served as a warning, he said.

“I don’t want to face complaints from the higher levels,” Mr. Choeun said. “Now, I just need to be self-alert and more cautious.”

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