CPP Says Public Forums on Reform Underway

Officials from the ruling CPP said Wednesday that a series of public forums announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this year, which he said would help gather input for his promised plans to introduce widespread political reform, are now being held around the country.

The plans for the forums were announced by Mr. Hun Sen during a closed-door meeting with top officials from each government ministry on January 29, in which the prime minister expanded on a marathon six-hour speech he delivered the day after the National Assembly was convened in September.

Mr. Hun Sen had in that speech told officials to “scrub your body” and “heal our disease” after the party’s shock losses at the July election.

Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker who has also represented the ruling party in floundering talks with the CNRP over election reform, said the ruling party began sending ministers to each province in early February.

“This is one of the deep reforms of the government…. We will take the people’s opinions and then consider them,” Mr. Yeap said.

He said that Interior Minister Sar Kheng had held a forum in Battambang province, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An had held one in Takeo province, Defense Minister Tea Banh had held one in Siem Reap province, and Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin had held one in Kandal province.

Sak Setha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior in charge of decentralization, explained that the ministers had hosted the forums in tandem with provincial, district and commune officials.

“I think that creating these public forums is better than not doing it,” he said. “Our officials will be able to understand the people’s situation.”

Mr. Yeap said that a few common themes had emerged in the forums.

“They told us about the problems in the public service, corruption and the loss of forests.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann described the forums as positive but warned the government not to ignore the advice it receives.

“Don’t just do this for cosmetic reasons to impress the international community…while the country remains in a terrible situation,” he said.

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