Council scrutinises results of the 2019 national census

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The council questioned figures recorded for the population of Phnom Penh and some provinces. Photo supplied

The Supreme Council for Consultation on Wednesday began questioning Minister of Planning Chhay Than over alleged irregularities in the 2019 census.

Led by rotating chairman Nuon Sokhavy, who is also the New Light Party president, the meeting was held at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet and attended by nearly 70 ministry officials and members of the 13 parties which makes up the council.

In a press release, the council said its members had questioned the recorded figures of the population in Phnom Penh and other provinces, which it claimed contradicted with actual figures.

They also raised the issue of nepotism and partisanship within the ministry.

Khmer Rise Party (KRP) president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung told The Post on Wednesday that he wanted the minster to clarify the issues.

“The minister needs to answer for the issues I have identified. These include the manipulation of data, fabricated statistics, irregularities within the census and partisan problems in the ministry,” he said.

He said even after hours of questioning, some issues were still not recognised by the minister and his ministry’s working group.

“They gave lots of excuses to the questions being asked despite lots of evidence pointing to the census officials not doing their jobs properly. They were only posting the census notices on the walls of houses and then roughly tallying the figures for the list.

“The census missed people, but the data is still inflated. This will have an impact on the development of the Kingdom and the three-year rolling investment project. It also affects value estimates and economic analysis.

“However, we have evidence that Than isn’t acknowledging, but passing the blame instead. We will prepare our evidence and it will be forwarded to Samdech Techo [Hun Sen],” he said.

Ministry spokesman Srey Chea could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The census report prepared by the ministry said the temporary figures of the nationwide census as of March 3, 2019, stood at 15,288,489 people, of whom 7,418,577 were males and 7,869,912 females.

When compared to the 2008 census figures, this meant the number of people had increased by more than 1.8 million (14.1 per cent).

The census report said that Phnom Penh had the highest number of people at 2,129,371.

But Vathana Sabung found that the figures had missed large numbers of people, such as in Prey Veng province. He said this could have meant around 200,000 people were not accounted for in the census.

He also said he did not understand why the formal report on Phnom Penh residents totalled 1.4 million, yet the results of the census numbered them at more than two million.