Village chiefs and their deputies have been given a major pay raise by the government, according to a new sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Minister of Finance Keat Chhon.
The Aug 28 sub-decree, a copy of which was published in the latest edition of the Royal Gazette, stipulates that village chiefs, deputy village chiefs and village council members, receive an increase of $10, $8 and $6 per month respectively.
The pay rise, which comes into force in January 2008, is on top of a $17 per month payment—introduced in March—that was previously divided between the three positions.
Previously appointed by the government, village chiefs and their officials are now elected by majority vote at the commune council level. The vast majority of village chiefs are CPP members.
Sak Setha, director of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Administration, said the pay hike was given because village chiefs are doing a lot of extra work, and the government now has money available to pay them.
“Commune councilors cannot work alone so there must be more participation from village level [officials],” he said.
The government had already raised the allowance to commune councilors so it is only right that they pay larger allowances to village representatives, Sak Setha said.
“We don’t want there to be too big a gap between commune and village officials or there will be jealousy,” he said, adding that village chiefs and their deputies are non-partisan.
“They work for all three political parties,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the pay rise was going to the CPP’s grassroots functionaries and coincided with the build-up to next year’s national election.
“Around election time, they help the ruling party,” Koul Panha said of village-level officials.
“They do political party work rather than village work,” he said.
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said the pay raise was an example of the ruling party’s use of state revenue to keep its stranglehold on power.
“The CPP is using the state budget to serve its supporters,” he said.
“[This] salary will serve the ruling party’s agents,” he added.