Ousted CPP Commune Chief Refuses to Hand Over Office

Chhit Souphat ruled Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune for 15 years before he was finally defeated at the June 4 elections. Now the ousted commune chief is refusing to leave his old office, saying that he paid for its furniture and air conditioner and that his personal documents could be lost in a move.

As newly elected commune chiefs and councilors take office across the country this week, Mr. Souphat, from the ruling CPP and now the commune’s second deputy chief, said the incoming chief could move into one of three other similar rooms in the building instead.

Thousands members of the CPP’s youth movement, gather at Wat Botum park in Phnom Penh for a concert on July 6 2013. (Thomas Cristofoletti)

“I have not yet decided to move,” said Mr. Souphat, who is in his 60s, and has been the commune’s chief since 2002.

Mr. Souphat said the $20,000 commune building had been constructed in 2012 and paid for mostly through fundraising, along with small sums from himself and the government.

Four private offices in the building are allotted for the commune’s chief, two deputies and a clerk, and they were all well-equipped and equal in size, he said.

“It is hard for me to move because I could lose…my personal documents in the room,” Mr. Souphat said, adding that he had also equipped the office with an air conditioner and furniture with his own money.

Assuming office on Monday, Uk Chetny, 28, the new commune chief for the CNRP, said he had no office of his own and was currently working in the building’s common working area.

“The chief has to work in the commune chief’s office because all the people know” the room, Mr. Chetny said, referring to the office Mr. Souphat refused to give up.

Muoy commune’s 11 councilors—six CNRP and five CPP—held a meeting on Wednesday and will deliver a report to the city and provincial governors this week to address the problem, Mr. Chetny said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Wednesday that the local officials should resolve the conflict on their own and the councilors should work together to serve the people.

“The old chief should respect the election results,” he said. “Please do not make trouble.”

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