Government Acknowledges Critical IRI Public Opinion Poll

The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has accepted the results of a recent public opinion poll carried out by the International Republican Institute (IRI), which found that fewer people support the direction the country is headed, the organization said Thursday.

The annual survey found that the number of people who supported “the direction the country is heading” had dropped from 79 percent to 55 percent between January and November of last year, and 43 percent of people surveyed said the country is headed in the “wrong” direction.

Jessica Keegan, IRI country director, said the Council of Ministers was officially briefed on the results of the survey—which were released last month—on Wednesday.

“The government of Cambodia has accepted the validity of the IRI survey and the data indicates Cambodians want real reforms,” Ms. Keegan said Thursday.

“While Cambodians wait for the government to implement reforms that may improve their quality of life, the world will be watching and waiting with them, to hold them accountable to their promises,” she said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he had been briefed on the IRI survey results by Ms. Keegan.

“I told her that it is additional information for the government, and how it compares to the election results,” Mr. Siphan said.

“We respect that, but not all of [the points]. We use it as a data tool to shape our own policies,” he said.

One of the prime reasons given by people who said they had lost faith in the country’s direction, along with nepotism and damage to the environment, was corruption.

Mr. Siphan acknowledged that corruption had been flagged as an issue for more than a decade.

“We never say we don’t care and don’t worry about issues,” Mr. Siphan said. “For corruption, we set up a legal mechanism and education to synergize everybody to work against corruption.”

Ms. Keegan said the National Election Committee (NEC) has also been briefed on the outcome of the survey, which found that 46 percent of respondents said the “country needs a change” when asked which party—Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP or the opposition CNRP—they wanted to vote for in last year’s closely fought national election.

“I haven’t looked at the entire report, just a little bit,” said Tep Nytha, NEC secretary-general.

“But even though it says that support dropped…the government is still doing the right thing. If we’re talking about the elections, this IRI report is more positive than other NGOs. It has more positive points,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)

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