Battambang governor on public service and ‘smart town’ transformations

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Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou speaks at a meeting in the province in February. BATTAMBANG PROVINCIAL ADMINISTRATION

Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou was appointed by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni on September 30 last year. He was transferred from the governorship of Kampong Thom province.

Since taking office, he has continued infrastructure development and maintained security so the people of the province can live in safety. His mandate is to transform the provincial capital into a “smart” town and he wants all of the people in the province to have prosperous lives.

Lou is a native of the province, having been born in Sangkevar village of Bavel commune and district.

The governor gave an interview to The Post about the management and development of Battambang province and his push to turn Battambang into a smart town.

What are your main achievements since taking office as governor?

Since I took office, my main accomplishments have been to carry on with the work begun by my predecessor and to maintain security and order for the people, under the guidance of Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, chairman of the government working group that is assisting Battambang.

We are continuing the vaccination campaign for the people of the province, and have had great success – there are no new Covid-19 infections.

Some of our other accomplishments include the construction of roads across the province. Some have been completed and some work is ongoing. We are continuing to make it easier for the people of Battambang to travel and transport goods.

How do you connect with the people?

That’s a very good question. Connecting with the people is my main goal as leader of the province. I make sure I know how my people are doing, especially those who are in need. In my role as head of the Cambodian Red Cross in Battambang, I have visited all 14 districts.

The mission does not end there. Whenever people are facing difficulties, we visit them and attempt to find solutions. In sum, whenever I hear that my people are suffering, i will go directly to speak with them, whether it is at the village, commune or district level.

What sectors in the province have the most potential?

Battambang has vast potential for agriculture. In the fields, our brothers are engaged in production of many crops, most notably rice. This is helping to bring prosperity to the province. What we are currently focussing on is the call for investment in agro-industry.

I have contacted investors to generate investment in processing mangoes and bananas, so that we can maximize our profits and not leave any behind. If we attract such investment, our people’s livelihoods will improve.

Regarding sanitation and the environment, what kind of new policies are you implementing?

Environmental hygiene is very important to me. I have worked hard to keep the town clean in order to attract tourists. We have great potential for tourism – we have more than 100 ecotourism sites throughout the province. We are working to attract more visitors, which will stimulate our economy.

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A view of some of the colonial period architecture in Battambang town in 2016. MOEUN NHEAN

With many original examples of colonial architecture in the town, we are working hard to establish standards that mean they will be preserved in their original style – another reason to visit our lovely town!

When will the plan to turn Battambang town into a smart town be finalized?

We have almost completed our research into how we are going to effect the transformation. Developing a smart town is a complex operation, and like all complex procedures, it requires time. We have done what needs to be done with our Japanese partners, but the plan will require the participation of all sectors.

For example, in the future, we are going to manage waste disposal through technology. Garbage will be separated by bins, and trucks will be tracked using chips. We will also use technology to monitor each bin – we will collect detailed data on when bins are full and how often they require servicing.

We will use similar tech for public parking, but it will require more time.

First and foremost, we are preparing to turn the Battambang Museum into a smart museum, the first of its kind in the Kingdom. This project is well underway, and will be open to the public soon. Today, we are asking the Japanese government for more help, but we have many interested partners on board.

What challenges in the province need to be addressed?

While we work hard to manage it, deforestation is still happening in natural resource conservation areas, on a smaller scale. I have put measures in place to increase their protection.

Drug crime still exists, even though we are trying very hard to prevent it. My authorities know that reducing drug harm is one of my highest priorities and are working hard on the issue.

Traffic accidents remain a problem as well. The situation is improving, but we are not 100 per cent happy with the road toll yet.

What are your goals for the province?

In general, I want to make Battambang a province where people respect the law, love the environment and benefit from the development of the province. Another thing I want to see is decent living standard and security for the public.

I would like to see – and have been working hard to promote – investment in agricultural, agro-industrial, tourism and other sectors. Bringing about an improvement in people’s livelihoods is my main goal.

Do you have any words for the people of Battambang?

I want the people in Battambang province, as well as throughout the country, to maintain the peace that we currently enjoy. I want them to strive to increase productivity and prosperity. Our livelihoods depend on our own efforts to create a legitimate working plan that generates a higher standard of living for every member of society. Eventually, I want to see the Kingdom become a fully developed country.