Don’t Abuse Office for Poll Campaign: Sar Kheng

Interior Minister Sar Kheng this week instructed civil servants not to use office hours for political activities. Photo from DPM Sar Kheng's Facebook Page

Civil servants told to stay neutral

PHNOM PENH--Interior Minister Sar Kheng this week instructed civil servants not to use office hours for political activities. 

In a letter issued on Feb. 22, Kheng also ordered officials not to use the state budget, materials, facilities or means of transport to campaign for any political party.

He urged them to be neutral when performing their work as stipulated in the Statute of Civil Servants.

Civil servants and local authorities at all levels must strictly abide by the Law on Commune Council Election during election campaigns, he said.

Civil servants who wished to stand as a candidate must apply for special leave at least seven days before the start of the election campaign.

Kheng’s order came before commune elections on June 5 and the National Election in July next year. The campaign for commune elections will run from May 21 to June 3.

The order to ban civil servants from using office hours for political activities earned praise from politicians as well as observers.   

Khmer Will Party president Kong Monika commended the move but cautioned that it remained to be seen whether it would be effective

“I applaud the statement, but I have never seen his appeal effective,” he said.

“In fact, this problem has been around for a long time in all government institutions where civil servants not only use the administrative time to work for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but also use the location and resources,” Monika said.

He said it was hard to distinguish between work-related to political parties and government work.

He suggested that the only way was to legislate that civil servants must be neutral and not members of any party.

Monika said his party faced difficulties and disturbances caused by the authorities, especially when it came to installing new signs, the gathering of members as well as the selection process of candidates for the commune elections.

Political commentator Seng Sary strongly supported the new instruction. He said public officials mostly had been working for political parties.

“I appreciated his instruction but it is ineffective if it still lacks a practical implementation mechanism,” Sary said.

Ruling party members were in almost every government ministry and it was difficult to reform this.  But he still urged officials to be neutral and abide strictly by the civil servant regulations.

Sary said he believed that the commune elections would proceed smoothly with less pressure and oppression of other political parties as the government tried to return to a democratic path.

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