Svay Pleung commune in Kampong Thom province has never had a commune hall for its officials to conduct business.
For some 15 years councilors have been forced to work out of a small area in a villager’s home. There’s no room for the commune chief, councilors and staff to administer the constituency of some 6,500 residents.
Chan Bunsar, the newly elected ruling Cambodian People’s Party commune chief, said the room they rent for $20 a month needs to be replaced with proper facilities, but repeated requests for investment have fallen on deaf ears.
“The government does not have the budget,” he said, adding that the $40,000 needed to build the hall was not forthcoming.
Preng Kemsoeun, an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party councilor, said the lack of proper facilities had hampered officials from dealing with constituents’ issues.
“With some family issues, people need to have discussions and want it to be confidential. They feel embarrassed to talk among other people,” he said.
Communes in Cambodia receive modest budgets in the low tens of thousands of dollars. The opposition has claimed it would allocate at least $500,000 to communes if it wins the 2018 election.
Lim Phalla, the deputy district governor, said the majority of communes in Baray district do not have official halls, adding that funding for two more was approved this year.
“We make proposals every year, but the decision at the national level is that they don’t have the money,” she said.
Thlork Pov, 45, a local resident, said when she had scheduled meetings with officials she had arrived at the home to meet officials only to find the building locked and the owner not at home.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 1,156 seats to the CNRP’s 489, with one seat claimed by the Khmer National United Party. The CNRP won 41 communes to the CPP’s 40 in Kampong Thom province.
Ngan Chamroeun, an Interior Ministry official on the local development committee, said the government did not have enough money to immediately build commune halls in all areas where they were lacking.
He added that the Asian Development Bank had funded the construction of more than 600 commune halls. “We are solving it step-by-step. We don’t have the budget to build all the halls now,” he said.