Commune elections 2017: Youth versus experience: CNRP runs newcomer, testing a community’s desire for change

CNRP candidate Chen Sokngeng (left), 26, is mounting a challenge against three-time sitting CPP Commune Chief Sam Lan (right) in Siem Reap province’s Sala Kamroeuk commune. Ananth Baliga

Ananth Baliga and Niem Chheng
The Phnom Penh Post, Tue, 23 May 2017

Like many parts of the Kingdom, Sala Kamroeuk commune, just outside of Siem Reap city, has been governed with consistency by one commune chief from the ruling party for the past 15 years.

When that commune chief – three-time incumbent Sam Lan, now 60 – took office, Chen Sokngeng was just 11 years old, the son of a humble farming family.

Now running to capture Lan’s seat at the age of 26, Sokngeng is officially the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s youngest candidate for office in the upcoming June 4 commune elections, and is banking on an infusion of youth turning the tide in a race that has all the makings of a David-versus-Goliath contest.

Sokngeng joined the CNRP at the age of 21, setting aside a career as a nurse, and went on to work for the party’s national election campaign in 2013 before deciding to entire the political arena himself.

He is now up against the perception that he is inexperienced and underqualified for the job he is looking to take away from the ruling CPP.

Chen Sokngeng drives a car through the streets of Sala Kamroeuk commune, with a supporter pushing residents to vote for the CNRP. Ananth Baliga

But instead of shying away from discussing his age, Sokngeng is confident he can use it as an advantage rather than a stumbling block – as a tool to appeal to the commune’s younger voters.

“The youth are wishing for change. The public services for citizens are not transparent. So, the youth don’t want to see this. And the youth want me to bring new ideas, new development,” he said.

There may be something to Sokngeng’s optimism. With more than 60 percent of the country’s population aged between 18 and 30, younger candidates like Sokngeng have the potential to resonate more than either party’s old guard.

CNRP candidate Chen Sokngeng, 26, is mounting a challenge against a three-time sitting commune chief in Siem Reap province’s Sala Kamroeuk commune. Ananth Baliga

Indeed, one of the factors contributing to the opposition’s surprise gains in the 2013 national elections, in which they won 55 of 123 parliamentary seats, was its use of social media to engage and mobilise support among young people. Social media darlings like Thy Sovantha who has since split with the party used their Facebook pages as political forums to push the opposition, which in turn benefited from the reflected youthful glow.

Cham Bunthet, a political commentator, said the CNRP had the upper hand in mobilising the youth vote in 2013, and predicted this momentum to continue into the elections on June 4.

However, he said the CPP had seemed to learn from the CNRP’s strategy – it has aggressively bolstered its own social media presence since 2013 – and is making its own efforts to attract young voters. “Yes, the CNRP may have it now, but there are no guarantees in 2018 or even in 2022,” he said.

CNRP supporters conduct a rally in Siem Reap town canvassing for newcomer commune chief candidate Chen Sokngeng. Ananth Baliga

In the scorching heat, Sokngeng sat behind the wheel of a black SUV yesterday, with a party colleague shouting party slogans and policies from the sunroof.

Sokngeng tells the commune residents not to dismiss him because of his age and inexperience, but to focus instead on his platform to provide transparent public services free from graft.

“People in this commune said they want youth to lead the commune. They said the age is not the problem, what’s important is political will,” he said.

Sitting near a bridge watching the rally pass by, Uy Sopha, a motodop, said he was unaware of the new candidate’s credentials but knows that the commune was looking to move away from the CPP. “You cannot eat sour soup all the time. You will want to change,” he said.

As the CNRP rally meandered through the town’s streets, Sam Lan sat behind his desk at the commune office shuffling through documents requiring his signature. The office sits in the same compound as the Cambodian People Party’s local headquarters, a reminder of how little separation there is between the local government and the party.

CNRP supporters conduct a rally in Siem Reap town canvassing for newcomer commune chief candidate Chen Sokngeng. Ananth Baliga

With the demeanour of a battle-tested statesman, the 60-year-old commune chief is unfazed by the CNRP’s young pick. The CPP has won at least seven commune council seats out of 11 in each of the last three local elections, and Lan seemed assured of a repeat performance.

He has proactively made his young opponent’s age a campaign issue, telling voters he won’t be able to handle the rigours of local administration.

“At 26 he is younger than my son. A person of 26 cannot even manage a family, so how can he lead a whole community?” he asked.

While harping on Sokngeng’s age is an easy hit for the stalwart, he said the commune’s residents were looking for experience, pointing to his track record of supporting the commune’s hospitality industry.

“We have provided a safe commune for them,” he said.

Sokngeng brushed aside Lan’s comments about his age and pointed to recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who at 39 is the country’s youngest president. If a European country could elect a young leader, he asked, why can’t Sal Kamroeuk put him in the commune hall?

Three-time CPP commune chief Sam Lan says his work over the last 15 years and his opponent’s inexperience will ensure another term for him come June 4. Ananth Baliga

Back at the CNRP rally, local resident Bopha was buying vegetables from a vendor as the cavalcade of motos and SUVs with blaring loudspeakers passed by.

“We cannot look at young or old now because the youth has a lot of knowledge. We may want to have a new commune chief but if he is not good we will change again,” she said.

Despite the symbolism of a young candidate calling for change against an establishment incumbent, Sokngeng only wanted to focus on the needs of the commune – an issue he says the CPP has long ignored.

“We do not want to hear ‘you have all this – what more do you want?’” he said, referring to an oft-used CPP comeback to citizen requests. “We want development for all people, equally.”

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Hun Sen Continues to Use Fiery Election Rhetoric, Aimed at Stoking Fear of Conflict

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, attend an opening the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, May 11, 2017. Some 700 people from 40 countries in the region has been attended this week the World Economic Forum on ASEAN that was held by impoverished Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Kann Vicheika VOA Khmer 23 May 2017

The prime minister has gone as far as to warn that “civil war” could follow an opposition victory at the polls and equating the fallout to a return of the Khmer Rouge regime.

PHNOM PENH — Prime Minister Hun Sen has frequently warned of impending conflict and instability should his party, the Cambodian People’s Party, lose an election.

The message has been repeated ad nauseam in speeches over the past several years, where the premier has gone as far as to warn that “civil war” could follow an opposition victory at the polls and equating the fallout to a return of the Khmer Rouge regime.

On April 20, during a speech at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, he once again questioned whether peace could be guaranteed “if the criticism [of the government] and the blame persists.”

While officially campaigning was not allowed to begin until this past Saturday, Hun Sen said the speech was not part of his campaigning for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but rather a “reminder” ahead of the election.

“What does one vote for? Vote for peace or war? You can choose between war and peace. A vote for the CPP is a vote for continued peace and development opportunities,” he said.

Political analysts and economists said that such inflammatory rhetoric could undermine the country’s development and shake investor confidence.

Ear Sophal, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said the prime minister’s warnings could end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Investors don’t like war because it’s bad for their investments and especially returns on investments, unless these investors are weapons dealers,” he said in an email.

Stephen Higgins of consultancy Mekong Strategic Partners said investors were likely to keep a close eye on political developments and rhetoric in the run up to next year’s general election. “As part of that they will take into account the nature of politics and the context in which statements are made.”

The analysts said that the government should work harder to reduce corruption and further strengthen the legal system to provide greater protections to investors.

Mu Sochua, an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party vice president, said Hun Sen’s threats were empty as he would not risk endangering his family’s huge investments in Cambodia.

“Everyone knows that the families of the ruling party are involved in most investment in Cambodia. Will they risk their businesses?”

Em Sovannara, a political scientist, said the references to conflict were intended to secure support from the elderly, the rich and the business community. “It will not affect the educated youth,” he said.

On Monday, Cambodia’s defense minister, Tea Banh, said any Cambodians protesting the results of the elections “will be beaten until their teeth come out”.

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ដូរ ឬមិនដូរ?

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Lottery hopes to soar on Wing network

A poster advertises Mohaleap Lotto outside a Wing agent office in Phnom Penh yesterday. Hong Menea

Hor Kimsay, The Phnom Penh Post
Tue, 23 May 2017

Mohaleap Lotto, a subsidiary of Cambodia’s Royal Group, officially entered the Kingdom’s lottery gaming market this month, hoping to disrupt a business sector currently dominated by black market outlets, a company executive said yesterday.

Phong Van Harch, the firm’s chief operating officer, said that since Mohaleap’s launch on May 2, more than 100 customers have won the lottery, while thousands play daily. He said the lottery business in Cambodia offers a lot of promise, particularly due to the popularity of gambling in the country, though the market is already crowded with both licensed and illegal lottery businesses.

Van Harch said the new lottery firm will rely on mobile money operator Wing Specialised Bank, another subsidiary of Royal Group, for its points of sale, leveraging the firm’s 5,000-strong nationwide network of agents to gain an advantage over its competitors.

“At the end of this year, we will become the leading lottery company in Cambodia because we have the biggest selling network in the country,” he said.

“We have a strong competitive advantage because Wing’s agents are found nationwide and people trust their service. It is very convenient for players, who can buy lottery tickets from any Wing agent, and if they win, they can claim the award from those agents as well.”

Prices start at 1,000 riel ($0.25) for a single six-digit bet and the maximum payout for winning tickets is 300 million riel ($74,000). There is a maximum of 12 bets per ticket and the lottery results are drawn daily live on Cambodian television channel CTN – which also belongs to Royal Group.

According to Van Harch, lotteries are popular in rural areas, but players often bet from illegal outlets. He added that if the government can successfully regulate the lottery market so that all players gamble with licensed companies, it would generate at least $3 million a year in tax revenue.

Van Harch did not disclose the firm’s startup capital investment. However, a licensed lottery company is required by law to have at least $2.5 million in capital and pay a monthly 10 percent tax on revenue, according to Ros Phirun, deputy director of the Financial Industry Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).

Firms are also required to maintain a $500,000 reserve deposit with the National Bank of Cambodia and pay an annual licence fee of $10,000, he said.

Phirun confirmed that Mohaleap Lotto, which is legally registered as Every Bright Trading Co Ltd, was officially licensed by the government as a subsidiary of the Royal Group.

So far, a total of nine lottery firms have registered in Cambodia, with Phirun saying that if properly managed and regulated, the sector can have a positive impact on the country. He observed that many other countries had their own lottery industry, including the US, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand.

“Everyone has a chance to be lucky so we decided to allow for the legal operations of lottery businesses,” he said.

“Players can bet small amounts of money to buy lottery tickets and sometimes, if they win, it can change their life.”

However, Son Chhay, lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said that all gambling businesses in Cambodia – including casinos and lotteries licensed by the MEF – are technically illegal because the law on gambling has never been approved by the National Assembly. He added the sector was harmful to the wellbeing of the Cambodian population.

“The lottery business is just operating to collect money from poor people to put into the pockets of businesses,” he said.

“We should instead encourage more investments for food processing plants in order to boost the demand of farmer’s agricultural crops and create higher prices, which will create a bigger benefit for peoples’ incomes.”

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ប្រធាន​គណបក្ស​ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ​មូលដ្ឋាន លោក យ៉េង វីរៈ ផ្ដល់​បទសម្ភាសន៍​ឲ្យ​អាស៊ីសេរី កាល​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​២០ ខែ​មេសា ឆ្នាំ​២០១៧។ Photo: RFA

ដោយ ចេង ម៉េងជូ RFA 2017-05-22

គិត​ត្រឹម​ឆ្នាំ​២០១៧ គណបក្ស​ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ​មូលដ្ឋាន មាន​វ័យ​ប្រហែល ២​ឆ្នាំ​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ គណបក្ស​នេះ​ប្រសូត​ចេញ​ពី​បណ្ដាញ «ខ្មែរ​ដើម្បី​ខ្មែរ» ដែល​ជា​បណ្ដុំ​នៃ​បញ្ញវន្ត​មួយ​ចំនួន ដូចជា​លោក​បណ្ឌិត កែម ឡី អ្នក​ស្រាវជ្រាវ​ការ​អភិវឌ្ឍ​សង្គម លោក​បណ្ឌិត យ៉ង សាំងកុមារ អតីត​ប្រធាន​អង្គការ​សេដាក (CEDAC) បច្ចុប្បន្ន​ជា​ប្រធាន​កម្មវិធី​ពង្រឹង​សមត្ថភាព​ថ្នាក់​ដឹកនាំ​មូលដ្ឋាន និង​លោក យ៉េង វីរៈ អតីត​នាយក​មជ្ឈមណ្ឌល​អប់រំ​ច្បាប់​សម្រាប់​សហគមន៍។ បច្ចុប្បន្ន លោក យ៉េង វីរៈ ជា​ប្រធាន​គណបក្ស​ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ​មូលដ្ឋាន នេះ។

សូម​ស្ដាប់​អ្នក​យក​ព័ត៌មាន​អាស៊ីសេរី គឺ​កញ្ញា ចេង ម៉េងជូ ពិភាក្សា​ជាមួយ​ប្រធាន​គណបក្ស​នេះ​ផ្ទាល់​ស្ដីពី​កម្មវិធី​នយោបាយ​របស់​គណបក្ស​សម្រាប់​ប្រកួត​យក​តំណែង​ក្រុម​ប្រឹក្សា​ឃុំ-សង្កាត់​អាណត្តិ​ទី​៤ ដូច​ត​ទៅ៖

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ប្រធាន​គណបក្ស​យុវជន​កម្ពុជា លោក ពេជ្រ ស្រស់ ផ្ដល់​បទសម្ភាសន៍​ឲ្យ​អាស៊ីសេរី កាល​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​២៤ ខែ​មេសា ឆ្នាំ​២០១៧។ Photo: RFA

ដោយ ចេង ម៉េងជូ RFA 2017-05-22

គណបក្ស​យុវជន​កម្ពុជា ជា​គណបក្ស​ដ៏​ថ្មី​សន្លាង​មួយ​ក្នុង​ចំណោម​គណបក្ស​ទាំង​១២ ដែល​ចូលរួម​ប្រកួត​ក្នុង​ការ​បោះឆ្នោត​ជ្រើសរើស​ក្រុម​ប្រឹក្សា​ឃុំ-សង្កាត់​អាណត្តិ​ទី​៤។ គណបក្ស​នេះ​ឈរ​ឈ្មោះ​បោះឆ្នោត​នៅ​ឃុំ-សង្កាត់​ចំនួន​១៩ ក្នុង​ខេត្ត​ត្បូងឃ្មុំ តែ​មួយ​គត់។

តើ​គណបក្ស​យុវជន​កម្ពុជា បាន​ត្រៀម​ខ្លួន​ដូចម្ដេច​ខ្លះ​ដើម្បី​ទាក់ទាញ​សំឡេង​គាំទ្រ​ពី​ពលរដ្ឋ​ជា​ម្ចាស់​ឆ្នោត​នៅ​ខេត្ត​ត្បូងឃ្មុំ?

សូម​លោក​អ្នក​នាង​ស្ដាប់​បទសម្ភាសន៍​របស់​អ្នក​យក​ព័ត៌មាន​អាស៊ីសេរី គឺ​កញ្ញា ចេង ម៉េងជូ ជាមួយ​លោក ពេជ្រ ស្រស់ ដែល​ជា​ប្រធាន​គណបក្ស​នេះ​ដូច​ត​ទៅ៖

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