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Communes Join for Provincial, National Boons

Local officials in Kampong Speu province joined a national association of communes last week, in an effort to bridge governance gaps between commune and national authorities.

Kampong Speu was the next to last province to join the National League of Communes/Sangkats, leaving Banteay Meanchey province, which is scheduled to join next week.

The league is a collection of provincial associations, which have been formed by commune councils in an effort to improve their roles, increase their responsibilities and strengthen local democracy, said Say Kosal, president of the National League.

Cambodia has 1,621 communes, with 102,266 council members, who are elected every five years. The councils control commune affairs and were established to decentralize government.

“The association is the best opportunity to find national and international partners to provide supportive assistance to solve local challenges through capacity building and the development of local institutions,” Say Kosal said.

The provincial associations and the National League are supported by the UNDP and EC to improve cooperation between commune councils at provincial and national levels.

“The establishment of the associations is very good, but we are concerned that the commune councils will use their power to serve the interests of their own party,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc.