Covid no excuse for laziness, PM warns commune chiefs

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A man rides past Phsar Doeum Thkov commune hall in Chamkarmon district on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned commune chiefs against using Covid-19 as a pretext to abandon delivery of public services or late arrival to work.

Hun Sen made the remarks on November 23 during the inauguration ceremony for the Stung Trang-Kroch Chhmar Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge, which connects Kampong Cham province across the Mekong River to Tbong Khmum province.

“The fight against Covid-19 must not obstruct the normal functioning of the commune administrative process or meeting the people’s needs. The commune chief must always have staff on duty at the commune hall.

“The commune chief must be present at the commune office at 7am. From what I hear, the fight against Covid-19 has been used as an excuse by some commune chiefs to not come into the office until 9am, and people have had trouble getting appointments with them,” he said.

Hun Sen said commune chiefs, district and provincial administrators are needed to assist with problem and as public officials they needed to be on hand to solve these problems.

“Do not use the fight against Covid-19 as an excuse to abandon administrative affairs when the people are in need.

“The commune administrative work continues with combating Covid-19 as the top priority; however, do not abandon your other administrative work,” he instructed.

Hun Sen said it was not possible to work online at the commune because people had to talk with officials directly to resolve certain issues such as land disputes.

He urged local officials to make efforts to mediate disputes outside the judiciary system rather than addressing them through the courts where the cases must result in winners and losers.

Sernh Ratha, chief of Pou Chrey commune in Mondulkiri province’s Pichreada district, said Hun Sen’s instruction was fair.

“Even during the fight against Covid-19, we still have to respond to the people’s needs because we are the authorities and I am committed to following the instructions,” he said.

Keo Romdet, chief of Stung Trang commune in Pailin province’s Sala Krao district, agreed.

“If we use the fight against Covid-19 as an excuse, we will not be able to serve the people well,” he said.

Romdet said even during the Covid-19 pandemic, people still sought public services at his commune including birth certificates, ID poor cards and other related documents.