Sar Kheng: Red Cross apolitical

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sar Kheng at the 156th-anniversary celebrations of the World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day in Prey Veng province on Thursday. SAR KHENG VIA FACEBOOK

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Thursday instructed Cambodian Red Cross officials across the country to come to the aid of vulnerable people without discrimination and regardless of political affiliation.

Sar Kheng, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was speaking in Prey Veng province at the 156th-anniversary celebrations of the World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

“The Red Cross is neutral and independent. It is not a political organisation. As a public mechanism, our people do not have to be divided into blue or red, or this party or that. Citizens are people. This means all people deserve a helping hand. We have behaved like this in the past, so please continue doing the right thing."

[The Red Cross] is an organisation that helps society. It has to look at all people – our people. Although people may have political affiliations, under any framework in a multi-party democracy, it is always like that,” Sar Kheng said.

He also urged the Red Cross to act transparently in managing and spending its budget – whatever the source, be it from middle-class donors or celebrities – to avoid losing the confidence of the general community.

“We call on generous donors to help them. If they do not, we cannot spend money. But squandering the budget without specifying where it has gone will cause people to lose faith,” he said.

Sar Kheng referred to irregularities he has seen before regarding donated funds.

“I’m not saying Prey Veng province has experienced the problem, but in the past, there have been problems – I simply don’t want to name names. Some places experience issues, so they don’t trust the mechanisms anymore. So don’t waste the budget – that’s crucial,” he said.

‘Keep to those standards’

Cambodian Red Cross Disaster Management Department director Uy Sam Ath told The Post on Thursday that the remarks by the senior leadership were intended to remind Red Cross members to have a strong spirit because, in the past, implementation had generally been done correctly.

He said irregularities had sometimes occurred because some individuals had used the Red Cross’ name to commit bad deeds, but he noted that when the leadership makes such remarks, everyone should listen.

“Normally, 80 to 90 per cent of the time all is good, but the other handful of individuals need to keep to those standards. He [Sar Kheng] reminded people like this because he is in the leadership and he is also an active member. He has a duty to speak up."

“For me, it’s not 100 per cent yet. There are still opportunists in the Red Cross movement. But I am convinced that now Samdech Krala Hoam [Sar Kheng] has made these remarks, the behaviour will improve and those who have done wrong in the past will be able to change,” Sam Ath said.

The Cambodian Red Cross received more than $20 million in donations during the 156th-anniversary celebrations of the World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day to support good causes.