Government Microfinance Messaging Getting Old, Minister Says

Less than two weeks into a state-mandated campaign to blanket mobile phone users with audio and text messages about microfinance institutions (MFIs), many are already tired of the government’s broken-record approach.

If the government continues to run its awareness campaign—which officials have said is needed to inform the public that MFIs are private entities, not state-owned—it will get old fast, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith admitted on Thursday.

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A Sathapana bank branch in Phnom Penh without its logo last month (Matt Surrusco/The Cambodia Daily)

“If we run it too much, too long, it will become boring,” Mr. Kanharith told reporters after the ministry’s annual meeting in Phnom Penh.

Mr. Kanharith said he would seek advice from Prime Minister Hun Sen about how long the government planned to continue the messages.

Last month, Mr. Hun Sen announced a “whole year” campaign to stop the public from being misled by politicians, whom he did not identify, claiming they would cancel private debts if elected. He urged media outlets and mobile phone companies to help spread the government’s message.

But Mr. Kanharith suggested last week that he would ask the premier to shorten the campaign.

“We cannot run it forever. For a whole year, it will be too much,” he said. “We should run it for a whole week and finish it, and after that run it once a month.”

Mr. Kanharith said mobile phone users could opt out of the automated call messages. A customer service employee at mobile operator Smart confirmed on Sunday that customers could contact the company to make such a request.

While some said they didn’t mind hearing the recording while waiting for someone to pick up, others were ready for it to end.

“I think it is a good thing,” said Leakhena Sophan, a communications officer at Institut Francais. “The government has done it right in order to help people not get confused.”

But Kab Tompor, a fourth-year university student, said people had gotten the message. “At first, it was fine, but after a while when calling and hearing this, it became boring,” she said.

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