Newly Elected Commune Chiefs, Councilors Taking Office

Cambodia’s newly elected commune councilors and chiefs began taking office on Monday with vows to make good on election promises by improving local services and keeping in closer contact with constituents.

The 11,572 councilors and 1,646 commune chiefs elected in the June 4 elections will take office in the coming days in a calendar set by provincial authorities, according to Tao Sokmara, deputy director-general of local administration at the Interior Ministry.

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Srey Nhean, left, is sworn in as the CNRP chief of Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Loeu commune in a ceremony on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Ms. Sokmara said the new officials would be sworn in through Sunday, two weeks after the official announcement of election results that saw the CPP take about 51 percent of the popular vote and 70 percent of the commune chief spots, with the CNRP sweeping most of the remaining vote.

“Now we are working on the schedule in order to meet the deadline,” Ms. Sokmara said.

Kann Loeung, who was re-elected chief of Sihanoukville’s Bei commune for the CPP and took office in a ceremony on Monday, said he hoped to speed up services and expand on past efforts to add more trash cans to the area.

“We will focus on providing better services to the people and working faster,” said Mr. Loeung, who has held his perch since 2002. “We have to work on environmental issues in the tourist areas, especially cleaning up trash.”

Srey Nhean, who took his spot as Chak Angre Loeu commune chief for the CNRP in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Monday, said he and his commune councilors would set their agenda after meeting with locals.

“We have to meet and discuss with the people first to understand what it is they really need,” Mr. Nhean said, adding that committees would be formed to address the locals’ wants and wishes.

The election marks the opposition’s first significant inroads into local governance, with its two composite parties having taken just 40 commune chief spots combined in 2012.

The party is now pushing a 100-day plan to make its commune leaders more accessible by posting local officials’ telephone numbers and the prices of public services, and threatening to fire those who don’t live up to the standard.

Kem Monovithya, the CNRP’s deputy public affairs director, said on Monday that the newly elected representatives were undergoing training on the administrative functions of the commune before taking office, and would receive continued training over the next five years.

The CPP, meanwhile, will provide its officials with training in “conflict resolution and local-level leadership,” CPP lawmaker Suos Yara said last month.

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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