Council Approves Creation of New City Bodies

The Council of Ministers on Friday approved draft legislation that enables the government to reorganize administrative boundaries and create new elected bodies at provincial, municipal and district levels, officials said Sunday.

“From 2009, towns in most pro­vinces will become cities,” said Sak Setha, director general of local ad­ministration at the Interior Ministry.

The new cities will be run di­rectly under their respective provincial governments in the interest of providing services to their burgeoning urban populations.

“We need time to study and work on the structure of cities,” Sak Setha said, adding that the draft will hopefully be sent to the National Assembly next week.

“Siem Reap, Battambang and Poipet town…could become cities,” he said, emphasizing that the pre­p­aration to become a city isn’t easy and involves changing farmland into areas for businesses.

Two draft laws, which Prime Min­ister Hun Sen praised last month as “an important stage of infrastructure reform to transfer power to the grassroots” are aimed at making administrative management more efficient and effective.

Sak Setha said that the “law gives rights to commune councilors to elect municipal, provincial and district councilors” for five-year terms, and that there will be no participation from the public in electing the new representatives, which he described as “policy makers.”

Commune councilors will select 21 municipal councilors, 15 to 21 prov­incial councilors and seven to 15 dis­trict councilors with whom mu­n­icipal and provincial governors will work closely to build up infrastructure and social services.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections, said he was against the new officials being selected rather than pop­ularly elected.

This kind of “indirect election in Cambodia is not quite fair,” he said, adding that the risk is that commune counselors will just select people from within their own political parties.

“The election system is a no choice election, no transparency—unacceptable,” he said.

Sak Setha said the selection of officials would be free, fair and transparent.

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