Prominent opposition Commune Chief Sin Rozeth again found herself in the crosshairs of Battambang town officials after they asked her to stop building a drainage system in her commune, saying it was not up to standard and not in compliance with the town’s urban plan.
Rozeth received a letter on Friday asking her to stop construction on the drainage pipe in Andoung Chen village, in O’Char commune, which she had initiated because it was missing from the town’s development plan. Some 60 percent of the work had already been completed using donations for the project.
This is not Rozeth’s first run-in with local authorities. Earlier this month, she was chided by Provincial Governor Chan Sophal for erroneously offering certain public services for free and for keeping her own personal records of commune finances.
“This is completely political. They want to deter the commune chief from the [Cambodia National Rescue Party] to be unable to show their achievements in development,” she said yesterday.
Rozeth said she was only responding to the needs of her constituents, and hoped that Town Governor Sieng Emvunsy, provincial authorities and their ruling Cambodian People’s Party would not obstruct her work.
Emvunsy yesterday said that a letter had been sent to Rozeth as early as August 18 asking her to get prior permission before starting any projects, but that instead she used it to garner sympathy and ascribed political ambitions to her disobedience.
“I think this commune chief is not clean from ‘political dirt’. She is serving her political party to get support for the 2018 election so much,” he said, adding that he would send another letter today asking for clarification on her saying that the town had prevented her from building the system.
Local support for the drain was evident when Battambang lawmaker Chheang Vun held a public forum on Saturday and said he would ask the Interior Ministry to investigate her activities, only to be met with resistance to the action from locals.
“I do not know which party you are from, but I am happy that there is no more flooding. Now, I can say it is 60 percent better,” said one villager in a video of the forum posted to Facebook.
Reached yesterday, Vun would only say that he had taken up the issue because he had received a complaint about flooding in a nearby rice field.
Another Andoung Chen resident, Hass Mony, said the town should inform Rozeth if any technical changes were needed to the drain but should not hinder her work, which they fully supported.
Since taking office, several CNRP commune chiefs have experienced pushback from the CPP’s deeply entrenched members in sub-national government. In some cases, CPP councillors have refused to vacate office space and provincial authorities have moved to block CNRP-proposed development projects.