In Provinces, Prime Minister Appeals to Market Vendors

Through Facebook, Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to have found a new way to connect with ordinary Cambodians. But in an ongoing provincial tour that began last month, he is again employing the time-tested practice of meeting with locals on the ground to hear their concerns and promise solutions—and then posting the exchanges to Facebook.

During a trip to Kompong Chhnang province on Tuesday, Mr. Hun Sen said he promised to construct school buildings and resolve market issues while also finding time to pass out envelopes of money to doctors treating laborers injured in a traffic accident.

Prime Minister Hun Sen poses for a selfie in a photo posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen poses for a selfie in a photo posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.

As he toured the Leu market in Kompong Chhnang City, vendors expressed concerns about rumors that the market would be dismantled in the coming years, Mr. Hun Sen wrote in a post on his Facebook page. The prime minister told the vendors not to worry, offering reassurances that they would be safe until at least 2040.

“After discussions with the Kompong Chhnang provincial governor, we have already decided that after a private company’s termination of investment by 2025, we will allow brothers and sisters working as market vendors to continue business at Leu market…up to 2040,” he wrote after streaming a video of his visit.

Yim Mony, 44, who has run cosmetics and fragrance stalls at the market since 1993, said a private company had built about 800 stalls at the market and that vendors already paid between $1,200 and $1,800 for each, with use guaranteed through 2025.

“I am really happy to hear that Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] has authorized us to continue doing business until 2040,” she said.

Also during Tuesday’s trip, Mr. Hun Sen visited the provincial referral hospital, where 14 injured factory workers were receiving treatment for injuries they sustained when the truck they were riding in collided with another vehicle. He gave each worker an envelope with about $125 inside and provided roughly $25 to each doctor on duty, officials said.

The premier also promised to construct buildings for at least three high schools in the province, as well as a teacher training center. “Samdech Techo Hun Sen, with the participation of some charities, has donated buildings,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

During previous trips to 10 other provinces, Mr. Hun Sen similarly met with market vendors and promised to build new school buildings.

While too early for election campaigning, he also put in a plug for votes during his visit to Kompong Speu province last week, explaining that the lifetime achievement award he received from a Malaysian think tank over the weekend was thanks to popular support from the Cambodian people.

“I thank the citizens of Kompong Speu province, people who are here as well as citizens across the Kingdom of Cambodia, who voted again and again for the CPP and for me to lead the country,” he said in a speech that was broadcast nationwide.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said on Tuesday that the speech amounted to political campaigning, which is supposed to occur only around elections.

“It’s wrong, but he only did it one time,” he said.

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