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Disabled commune chief defies the odds

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Van Von says his disability is no obstacle to his job. Supplied

A 50-year-old disabled man has been voted commune chief in Siem Reap province after 18 years of representing the opposition CNRP. 
Van Von, chief of Kantrang commune in Prasat Bakong district, is the first disabled person to be elected to a leadership role in the area. 
Mr Von was assistant commune chief for the two previous mandates and said he is ready to help develop the local area in his new role. 
He became disabled when his feet were injured on duty as a soldier in Banteay Meanchey province in 1998. 
Mr Von got involved with politics not long after, and said he has always believed more must be done to promote the rights of disabled people, calling on NGOs to back his efforts to address the issue. 
“I am so happy the residents voted for me to be commune chief,” he said. “I have struggled to work for the people here for more than 18 years. I promise villagers I will do everything I can to develop the commune.
“My disability is no obstacle to me working as commune chief.”
Chief of Siem Reap provincial council Sok Kimseng said Mr Von had earned his new post through years of hard work.
“He fought on behalf of CNRP for more than 18 years and has finally been successful in becoming commune chief,” he said.
He added there are nine communes in Prasat Bakong district, eight of which were won by the CNRP in recent polls. 
According to preliminary results from the National Election Committee, CNRP got 2,708 votes in Kantrang commune, while CPP received 2,000.
Eu Ly, executive director of the Cambodia Disabled People Independent Living Organisation, said Mr Von’s election proves that locals have faith in his abilities. 
“It is rare to see a disabled person working as commune chief. I think this will encourage other disabled people and help fight prejudice,” he said.
According to a report by the Ministry of Social Affairs, there are currently 2,576 disabled people working in the country’s public sector.

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