Samdach Sar Kheng: ‘Cooperate with forum members’

(Phnom Penh) : Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Monday ordered all provincial and municipal governors to cooperate with Supreme Consultation Forum members on fact-finding missions concerning disputes and officials’ inactivity.

Sar Kheng’s call was hailed by members of the forum, created by Prime Minister Hun Sen following last year’s national elections to promote cross-party cooperation in government.

However, an analyst claimed it was just part of attempts to show that the forum is an effective political entity.

“To help facilitate the implementation of the duties of the Supreme Consultation Forum, I request that all governors cooperate closely with the forum as it carries out missions in cities and provinces in a smooth manner as per the planned programmes and receive good results,” Sar Kheng’s letter said.

Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister, highlighted in his letter to municipal and provincial governors dated Monday that, according to the duties of the Supreme Consultation Forum as stipulated in Article 10 of the Royal Decree, it can monitor the implementation of the law and policies of the government both at the national and sub-national levels, and offer recommendations for improvements.

Khmer Rise Party president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung said he welcomed Sar Kheng’s instruction because, in the past, local authorities had seemed to be not fully cooperating with such working groups, in some cases asking for unnecessary documentation in order to delay or disrupt missions.

He said that most local authorities did not seem to understand the responsibilities of the forum as information on it was limited.

“I think relevant officials should disseminate information on the duties and roles of the Supreme Consultation Forum and advise local authorities more clearly because in the past we have really faced difficulties,” he said.

Cambodian Nationality Party president Seng Sokheng said he had also faced a lack of cooperation from local authorities, with them likewise asking for documentation to prevent his working group from visiting the areas requested.

“I support his [Sar Kheng’s] decision because [it] will help us carry out our work. It is not only me who has been hindered but also the working groups of other parties.”

“Most of the issues we went to help resolve were land disputes. It has happened in most provinces.”

However, Preah Sihanouk Governor Yun Min said authorities in his province had always welcomed and cooperated with the forum’s working groups.

“We have always cooperated with civil society as well as the Supreme Consultation Forum. We have always welcomed them and never obstructed or caused them any difficulty.”

“However, we would like them to let the authorities know when they are to arrive so that we can be prepared to cooperate. If I don’t know they are to come, how can we cooperate with them?”

Governor of Kampong Speu province Vey Samnang echoed Min’s sentiments and also called on the forum’s working groups to give local authorities notice before arriving.

This, he said is because local authorities also worked to serve the Cambodian people and had nothing to hide. Hence, forum members could receive the best assistance.

Social analyst Meas Nee said he thought the instruction was intended to show that the forum was an effective body and highlighted the plurality of Cambodian politics.

“The appeal from the Ministry of Interior is an attempt to show the effectiveness of the Supreme Consultation Forum, and to show that although there is no longer a main opposition party, there are also other parties working with the government.”