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Voters Want Campaign Promises Kept

Although officials have failed to live up to promises from the last local election, everyday Cambodians said Tuesday they plan to vote again in this year's elections, now less than a month away.

Broken promises and corruption remain issues for many, as well as the centralization of power, something the commune councils are meant to counter. The localized administrative councils ostensibly control day-to-day decisions for communes, or village clusters, although many chiefs still take their orders from national authorities.

Phnom Penh resident Thong Leng rents space under umbrellas where vendors can set up shop. He told VOA recently that police still hassle him and the vendors for bribes, something just as common five years ago, when the last commune elections were held.

He also knows that corrupt officials take land from people, he said, which was disappointing.

"Don't move people from this place to the other place," he said. "If you do that, the people will not support you anymore."

Heung Sovann, another Phnom Penh resident, said that he was ready to vote on Sunday, April 1, even though the authorities had not fulfilled their promises from last year. He still wanted to fulfill his obligation as a citizen, he said, despite the continued theft of land by authorities who favor companies over constituents.

Officials say they have tried to keep their promises, though they admit progress has been slow.

Pen In, a Cambodian People's Party district chief, said she did fulfill her promises, especially in the development of infrastructure, sewage and social work.

Sar Heng Vanna Sak, a district chief from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said that over the past five years, authorities have solved some problems, but one problem remains unsolved: decentralization.

"The advantage of a decentralized system is that it empowers the lower-ranking officials to help the people," he said.

This doesn't necessarily happen in Cambodia, he said.

Koul Panha, executive director for the independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said decentralization in Cambodia has been slow, because although it is embedded in the political structure of the communes it is not practiced administratively.