Opposition Accuses CPP of Obstructing Work

After a third run-in between a newly-elected opposition commune chief and ruling party-controlled provincial government, a CNRP lawmaker is accusing the CPP of obstructing the work of its officials at the local level.

But with just three incidents among 489 CNRP chiefs in roughly a month since they took office, a government official says the cases are isolated and authorities are simply taking action against wrongdoing.

Kompong Cham’s provincial governor on Tuesday gave a one-week deadline to a CNRP commune chief in Batheay district to fill a canal he had been digging along the side of a road to mitigate flooding.

The Choeung Prey commune chief, Ven Sam Ol, said he had acted in response to a petition from 100 families in the area.

“They just want to ease the water because their rice fields are submerged,” Mr. Sam Ol said, adding that residents had pooled money for an excavator’s rental.

Mr. Sam Ol said he had been summoned to the district governor’s office on Monday and given one week to restore the road.

“I am concerned because the deadline is too close,” he said.

The provincial governor, Kouch Chamroeun, refused to speak to a reporter about the issue, but was earlier quoted by government mouthpiece Fresh News as saying the commune chief was “destroying public property.”

“I give one week for commune chief Ven Sam Ol to repair this road to its original state. If not, I will take action in accordance with the law, and don’t say I do it out of political motives,” Mr. Chamroeun said at a provincial council meeting, according to Fresh News, adding that Mr. Sam Ol had damaged 400 meters of an Asian Development Bank-funded road project.

Earlier this month, Sin Rozeth, the new commune chief of Battambang City’s O’Char commune, was warned in a letter to end her policy of providing commune services free of charge.

Shortly after she took office, Ms. Rozeth posted a large notice on the commune building listing a fee of zero riel for all services provided by her office, including issuing birth and death certificates and wedding permits.

In response, the Battambang provincial administration sent her a letter dated August 3 ordering her to personally pay for the services her office had provided.

In Phnom Penh, Sam Choeun, the CNRP chief of Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke II commune, came under fire earlier this month from ruling party peers and higher-ups for putting a donation box in his office to fund commune services.

CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann on Wednesday said the ruling party, which appoints all provincial governors and controls provincial authorities, was obstructing the work of his party’s newly-elected commune chiefs in an attempt to sabotage the opposition’s chances at next year’s national election.

“In terms of motives, the CNRP’s victory will be based on those 5,000 commune councilors” who were elected across the country in June, he said. “So that’s why the ruling party, their strategy is to target our commune councilors. They are watching to catch their mistakes, put pressure and intimidate.”

“They are putting on the pressure to break their spirit and popularity,” Mr. Monyvann said, adding that the party was training its councilors in every province to understand local-level administrative laws.

Sak Setha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, rejected Mr. Monyvann’s accusation that the warnings that had been issued against opposition commune chiefs were politically motivated.

“They committed something wrong. It is not because they are CNRP commune councilors,” Mr. Setha said.

In Ms. Rozeth’s case, for instance, the CNRP councilor had flaunted the government’s rules, he said.

“For some services, the government requires that fees are collected. If you [don’t] take a fee, you must pay it yourself instead,” Mr. Setha said.

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