KAMPONG CHHNANG PROVINCE —
In the lead up to June’s commune elections, Sguon Samean, a former Sam Rainsy Party commune chief, say that she is hopeful that people will vote for her again.
“I believe in my people. I have hope in my people since they trust me and they can depend on me. I am a good commune chief,” said Samean, 53, who was elected in 2012.
Samean is seen as “a courageous female commune chief” in Trapaing Chan commune, which is home to more than 6,000 villagers.
“I dare to solve problems for the people without fear. I solve problems without discrimination or political biases,” she added.
Samean hopes to gain around 85 percent of the vote, adding that in the previous election she won only a slim majority of 120 over the ruling party Cambodia People’s Party candidate.
The CPP won the majority of seats in the 2012 commune elections, securing more than 8,000 of the nearly 11,500 council seats up for grabs. The opposition only won 40 of the 1,633 commune chief positions.
In Kampong Chhnang province, the opposition CNRP won only one commune post among 70 in the last commune election. But the commune elections, scheduled for June 4, are promising to be a competitive affair, with the CPP and CNRP appearing to have comparable support.
Twelve parties will contest the election, but only the CPP and CNRP have registered candidates in all of the country’s 1,646 communes.
Samean was removed from her post on March 20 like hundreds of opposition commune officials who had changed party allegiance since they were elected in 2012, standing for the opposition CNRP.
She hopes to scale up her development plans for the area if the CNRP wins the next general election in 2018.
Samean is up against a senior ruling party candidate, Sang Khat, who has more than 30 years experience in leadership positions in the commune.
Khat, who is now the acting commune chief, admitted that he had failed to meet residents’ expectations during his time in charge. However, he hopes to gain voters’ trust.
“In the past, I saw my mistakes. I didn’t solve the problems on time in the manner people needed. “I don’t know whether she [Samean] has solved this problem or not. It is her business,” he said.
Khat said he hopes to win about 65 percent of the vote, adding that he would stick to the party line during the two-week election campaign until June 2.
He criticized Samean for what he said was a failure to develop the area’s infrastructure and improve the condition of overcrowded local schools, saying she was unable to raise funds from high-ranking officials to bring in much-needed additional revenue.
Communes in Cambodia receive minimal budgets, in the low tens of thousands of dollars, but the CNRP has claimed it would increase the budget of local authorities by some $1.6 billion if it wins power in 2018.
Local resident Yean Kan, 57, said that she has decided to vote for Samean.
“I want the commune chief to take care of villagers, dig more wells, build schools and roads,” she said.
Another villager, Uy Rachheung, 51, said that he needed the new commune chief to cooperate on forest protection in the community in addition to digging wells, building roads and providing good administrative services.
“The new commune chief has to help give good services and fulfill other needs so that he or she will become a role model in the commune,” he said.
Rachheung also wishes to see the commune chief strengthen the quality of education and also build a high school in the commune so that his children do not need to travel long distances to go to school.
Ngor Kimcheang, an opposition MP, told VOA Khmer during a visit to the area that he hopes that the party will win in about half of the province’s constituencies.
“I surveyed villagers at the grassroots level. People need a change and they need new leadership. Therefore, I hope to get at least 30 to 40 commune posts in Kampong Chhnang province,” he said.