PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), the ruling party of the fifth mandate of the Royal Government, needs to respond to the increasing social demands of the people.
“A ruling party can only rule the country for a long period of time if the party can fulfill the people’s demands,” Prime Minister Hun Sen was reported to have told his cabinet recently.
Paraphrasing the words of Chinese president Xi Jinping, he continued: “Wherever the problems exist we need to reform for the benefit of our people.”
“This is what the CPP and the Royal Government must do,” he added.
The premier said the wave of demonstrations taking place in Cambodia has prompted the CPP to address the people’s social issues seriously.
“The issues of land disputes, the unclear boundary of concession land acquired by investors, and the government’s unclear measures – when it comes to the implementation of its policies – have created conditions for the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be embedded in the country,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“They have been mounting severe criticism and attacks on multiple fronts of the government, which ultimately created more social problems,” an official who attended the meeting, but declined to be identified, quoted the prime minister as saying. “Currently, non-government organizations (NGOs) are playing a very critical role in Cambodia.”
The ranking official said that the CPP has been doing its utmost to resolve land disputes and related issues. This is illustrated by the fact that the government has registered more than one million hectares of land after the May 2012 initiative.
“However, the people continue to protest about the land issues,” the official said. “This is because the opposition and their affiliated NGOs successfully utilized social media to create a situation where they thrived and the government was put under the spotlight and immense pressure.”
The official added that NGOs keep sharing their concerns with the CNRP, and echoing them with one another. They unified in their resolve to publicize the social issues that led to the CPP losing 22 seats to the opposition last July.
In response to pressure on the CPP to perform, the prime minister is reportedly cracking the whip at his administration.
“We are now pushing the concerned ministries of environment, agriculture, and land and urban management to review all land concessions awarded to private companies,” the official said.
He said the government recently established a committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin to review all land concessions.
“The committee’s experts will review and revoke any land concessions that have seen no investment since they were received from the government,” the official said. “If other companies want to use the land for investment, we will facilitate them. At the same time, they have to pay tax. This is revenue for the state.”
The CPP, he quoted the prime minister as saying, needed to respond effectively to the increasing social demands of the people.
On the issue of corruption, which has been raised by the opposition and NGOs, the official said that this could not be denied. The government has responded by establishing the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) to address the problem.
“We empowered the ACU to eavesdrop on people’s phone conversations,” he said. “The ACU is the only government institution allowed by law to tape and eavesdrop on people from which the evidence can be used when it comes to taking legal action.”
The official stressed that other government institutions are not allowed to do so as it is prohibited by law. The ACU’s policy “falls in line with good governance,” he said.
Further, he said of the most important things that Cambodia now faces, is finding markets for its agricultural products, given that more than 60 percent of Cambodia’s population are farmers and they rely on agricultural commodities.
“The prime minister has voiced his hope that China can help Cambodia to solve this problem of markets for agricultural produce,” the official said. “We are struggling with the market for Cambodian products. Cambodian farmers have to sell their crops to Vietnam and Thailand at the border at low prices because they need quick funds to repay the banks.”
Last year, Cambodia’s exports to the United States totaled $2 billion, while exports to the European Union reached $2.4 billion, under the EBA trade status.
“We are looking to export Cambodian products to the Chinese market since China has granted duty free entry to more than 400 different Cambodian products,” the official said. “But the export process has been quite slow, and as such, exports remain low.”
The prime minister again ordered his cabinet to clean up their act and stop repeating past actions.
“The consequences are clear,” he said. “Be responsible and accountable.”