Former Commune Chief Holds On to Office

Another handover of a commune office from a ruling party official to his opposition counterpart is proving problematic, with a newly elected CNRP commune chief in Siem Reap City being forced to work outside his office because the former CPP chief refuses to budge.

Chen Sokngeng, 26, won the June 4 ballot in Sala Kamroeuk commune and was due to officially take over from Sam Lorn, 60, on Friday. However, the local CPP veteran has locked the office and refused to vacate the premises.

“He did not unlock the room for me to work in as commune chief and asked me to work in another place,” Mr. Sokngeng said on Monday. “It shows that he has clung to his power.”

A video posted to Facebook shows the young CNRP official working outside the locked room in a communal area with the commune’s councillors.

“He does not cooperate with us,” Mr. Sokngeng said. “Please, authorities help solve this problem.”

Mr. Lorn admitted that he had refused to remove his belongings, justifying his actions by claiming that he built the room in 2002 and was still serving as second deputy commune chief. He said he had removed a sign that showed the room was for the commune chief.

“I still have a position as second commune chief so I have to work in that room,” Mr. Lorn said. “We should work together to avoid being criticized by the people. We should not quarrel over the room.”

While there is only one private office in the building, the incoming chief could use cabinets to partition the shared space and secure an area for himself, Mr. Lorn said.

“It’s a trifling matter,” he said.

The latest spat comes after Chhit Souphat, Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune chief for 15 years, also refused to hand over his office to incoming CNRP chief Uk Chetny last week, saying that he had paid for its furniture and air conditioner and that his personal documents could be lost in a move.

Contacted on Monday, Mr. Chetny said he had moved into an office opposite his predecessor.

“Now, I have changed my mind and let him occupy that office so that we can serve the people very well,” Mr. Chetny said. “I need him to work with me because he’s very experienced.”

Sak Setha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said on Monday that he had not received any complaints from commune councillors concerning quarrels over offices.

“They should compromise at the local level and work together in providing services and development,” Mr. Setha said.

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