A CPP candidate for a National Assembly seat in Siem Reap province has publicly announced that he will give charitable donations of $75 to people in need in one commune following Sunday’s national election, according to a local official.
In a move echoing that of Interior Minister Sar Kheng earlier this week when he announced a “personal foundation” to provide money to the needy in all of Prey Veng province—which has been labeled as vote buying by an election monitor—Sieng Nam, an incumbent lawmaker in Siem Reap, this week announced his own charity giveaway.
Mr. Nam could not be reached for comment, but an official from the Provincial Election Committee (PEC) confirmed the announcement.
According to Svay Loeu district deputy police chief Sung Meng, who attended an event announcing the charity payments on Tuesday, Kuch Lina, chief of the CPP working group in Khnang Phnom commune, said that after the election, Mr. Nam would provide 300,000 riel, or $75, to women giving birth and to families in which a member has died in the commune.
“Mr. Nam’s subordinates promised to give this money, so they can’t break their word now because hundreds of people know this information,” he said, adding that about 3,000 families in the commune would be entitled to receive the cash—an amount totaling some $225,000.
Mr. Meng denied that the gifts constituted vote buying. “This is not an act of buying hearts,” Mr. Meng said.
“He [Mr. Nam] always wants to help the poor people and he never thinks of gaining more votes from those people.”
Non Vann Som, president of the Siem Reap PEC, said that he was aware of the announcement by Mr. Nam, and also argued that it was legitimate.
“It is not an act of attracting more voters, but it is more a generous activity,” he said, comparing the donation to the policy of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to provide a state pension of $10 per month across the country.
Kuol Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the move was vote buying, and urged other parties to file complaints and demand action from the National Election Committee.
He also pointed out that Siem Reap, like Prey Veng, is a province where the opposition is expected to make gains against the ruling CPP.
“Recently [in Siem Reap], the opposition events have been getting large numbers,” Mr. Panha said.
(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis)