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- April 13, 2023 7:00 PM
From the newsroom to the rice field, Min Pov maintains his focus on social issues
PHNOM PENH – A former journalist has got involved in politics and is now running for commune chief in his hometown. After more than 10 years in the media industry, he aims to assuage the local issues that have affected people from his hometown for many years.
Min Pov, a former journalist and editor at Voice of Democracy (VOD), quit his profession a year ago to pursue his political activism with the Grassroots Democratic Party—headed by Yang Saing Koma.
Pov is now competing for the commune chief position at Prek Sdey commune, Koh Thom district, Kandal province, his hometown.
“Some issues that needed to be promptly addressed a few years ago are still unanswered today and have kept deteriorating. I think I can contribute to addressing them and be a part of the solution,” he said.
Born in 1985, Min Pov became a journalist in 2010. Before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Khemarak University in 2017, he discontinued his education because of emotional problems and the death of his mother in early 2010, who was his biggest motivator.
“My goal was to bring the bachelor’s certificate to my mother. When she passed away, I didn’t know for whom I should continue my study,” Pov said.
He was nevertheless able to grapple with his grief and eventually became a journalist, covering social issues in Cambodia. Pov was also suffering from rheumatoid arthritis during his high school years, during which he was required to get a medicinal injection regularly.
Running for the chief’s position to repeal rooted problems
Being a realistic person, the 37-year-old politician acknowledges that becoming a commune chief or getting involved in politics in Cambodia is risky, while the income is twice as low as what he earned as a journalist.
Despite being enamored with his former profession, he said he’s aware of the social problems occurring in his hometown, affecting the people in Prek Sdey commune. The fact that these issues have worsened over time prompted him to do something.
“I am upset because the vibrant places in the village where I used to play when I was young are becoming dark and a trash dump site,” said Pov.
Three main issues are sapping Prek Sdey commune’s long gone way of life: drug consumption, agriculture-related problems and poor waste management along the irrigation canals.
The running candidate said drug consumption has increased among the youth, harming the country’s future potential. Four youth in his commune have had their brains damaged due to the excessive use of drugs. They assaulted their parents and set fire to their houses, Pov said.
“Drugs have affected many aspects of the commune,” he said. “We surveyed and met with the villagers: drugs were found to be the main worry among the community.”
Nevertheless, when asked what drugs were mostly consumed, the running candidate couldn’t name any. “Leaders don’t have to know the details as the expert officials will do their job. I’ll set out the effective policy and then order the crackdown,” he explained.
Agriculture has also deteriorated in the past ten years, with a decrease of production in rice, mangoes and vegetables locally grown by farmers.
Pov said that, with the changing climate, farmers don’t know how to adapt their farming techniques as they possess little knowledge on how to respond to global warming. In addition, the cost of fertilizers and fuel have increased since the war in Ukraine started, having negative impacts on the already limited crop yields. “Costs are too high and income is too low,” he outlined.
Finally, the former journalist wants to clean up the 10 irrigation canals crossing his commune, flowing water from the Bassac river to the farming areas. Water in the canals used to be drinkable but is now unfit for human consumption as canals have turned into dumping sites, while houses are built all along the canals, Pov said.
“As a child, while walking back from school, I used to swim in the canals, but it’s not possible anymore. I am not happy seeing them filled with garbage,” he said.
Carrying on political commitment whatever happens
Min Pov, who has been participating in the community work long before he decided to run for the commune chief, sees three possible outcomes for the upcoming communal election: being elected as the commune chief, becoming a council, or nothing at all, he said.
However, he remains optimistic that if he is elected as commune chief, he would be able to hold a council position, as the number of his supporters is increasing, he said, defending his social agenda. Prek Sdey commune’s council has 11 seats, giving the GDP a good chance to obtain at least one of them–who would be granted to Min Pov.
“No party is our enemy. Our enemies are the problems that need to be solved. We don’t want to win against one party or another. We try to focus on the issues at the local level,” he said.
When asked what he will do if he failed to be elected at any position, Pov said he will continue his community works as he and his team have been doing so far, such as creating local libraries or raising funds for the underprivileged.
“If we are not elected, we will become active citizens who can be role models and work and discuss with the authorities during community meetings. We will still carry out our political ideas, with no position,” said Pov.
Min Pov encourages people, particularly youth, to pursue what they are interested in despite the discouraging words from others. He wants to see Cambodia become a country where people can freely voice their opinions and engage in politics without fear.
He also wants to push young Cambodians to trust themselves more, allowing them to understand they can become what they want through dedication and hard work.
“As long as they hold a growth mindset, young people can grow up to become skilled workers at a high-ranking position in a big company. And I want to spread that idea,” he said.
Seventeen parties are running for the 5th commune election. The election campaign started on May 21 and runs until June 3. No political activity will be allowed on June 4. The election takes place on June 5.