KAMPONG SPEU —
It’s been almost a year since families in Khaob village have had a road connecting their homes to the outside world.
New construction has blocked the old village road, and villagers say they are “very angry” after complaints to the local authority, controlled by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, went unanswered.
Villagers now hope that a new commune chief will be elected who will hear their concerns.
Hin Phanith, 29, says the lack of a simple piece of infrastructure such as a road has badly affected the local economy. “People don’t have road access to the farms,” he said.
Ek Ben, 28, the young opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party candidate standing in the election against the experienced CPP candidate Prum Saron, 77, said he was not interested in gaining personal power. “The important thing is that he can help people in the village or commune,” Phanith said.
Nhim Sanom, 44, a farmer, said the old road had been blocked by construction carried out by people with connections to the commune chief and was “political”.
“For nearly a year, there has been no road to homes. So I need a new commune council. The current commune chief does not solve the issue for me. Therefore, I need to vote for another commune chief,” he said.
“They [commune authorities] know that I am for the CNRP. They hate my family because of this. So they don’t solve the problem. They discriminate against villagers since they know my family supports [the CNRP],” he added.
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. 2017 local votes are expected to offer a preview of 2018's nationwide vote.
Here, in Kampong Speu province, the CNRP won only one commune out of 87.
Saron, the incumbent commune chief in Rorka Thom, said he had passed on the villagers’ requests to the governor, adding that the case would likely go to court.
“I tried twice and reported this to city governor and they went to meet villagers,” he said.
Hun Many, the youngest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen and an MP in Kampong Speu, took to Facebook this week to urge people in the province to vote CPP.
“Voting for the CPP is to give the opportunity for our CPP commune candidates to continue implementing the policy of developing villages, communes, serving the people and maintaining stability, peace,” he said.
Ben, meanwhile, hopes he can gain enough votes to win.
“I think the job [commune chief] teaches people. What they can do, I can do, too, and even better than them,” he added.
“If I am elected as the commune chief, I will prioritize this road solution. I will completely find the suitable solutions,” he said.