SVAY RIENG PROVINCE —
Phouk Prathna is one of the youngest local councilors elected to run a local authority in this month’s local elections.
At just 25 years old, the Cambodia National Rescue Party councilor for Bavet in Svay Rieng province, near the border with Vietnam, was one of four officials elected on a CNRP ticket here.
As the opposition here won the majority of council seats, Prathana, who only has a grade 10 education and works part-time as an emcee at a local nightclub, will be part of running this constituency.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, won three seats, meaning one of their candidates will hold the deputy commune chief position.
A recent recruit to the party, Prathna says that educational achievement and experience come second to a willingness to serve constituents.
“I want to be like my grandfather who used to run the commune,” he says. “My family, especially my parents, urged me to get into politics.”
“Despite my low education, I have patriotic ideas. I am capable of doing the job. Previous commune chiefs had less education.”
He added that combating illegal immigration from Vietnam would be a top priority.
By law, the only requirement for standing as a councilor is basic literacy.
Most of the councilors elected in 2012 are much older than Prathna, in their 50s and 60s. The CPP won 1,156 commune chief positions compared to the opposition’s 489, according to official results announced last week. One seat was also won by the Khmer National United Party.
Yin Theavy, 37, who will become the Bavet commune chief, also lacks experience of politics.
“But I will try and manage and lead the commune to the best of my abilities,” he said.
Sam Saruon, 29, another CNRP official in the area, will also take up a senior position in the administration. “What is important is that we have to be cooperative and have solidarity in working both the CPP and CNRP,” he said. “I don’t know how good I am. That is up to the people. What’s most important is that I will use my heart to show people. I will meet them personally, which is best.”
He said the new administration would soon devise “a good plan” for the commune to “meet the people’s needs”.
Sanh Sakhon, the outgoing CPP commune chief, said he would be able to work with the new commune chief when he assumed the deputy position.
“There’s no problem. I can work with them,” he said. “I have no problem in my commune. People don’t hate me.”
Yoeung Sotheara, a legal officer with election monitor Comfrel, said it would be difficult for the two sides to work together due to a history of enmity.
“Previously, there was much discrimination between the two parties,” he said. “At the beginning it will be hard work for them... but young people are always better than old ones.”