The Ministry of Interior plans to establish new communes before the 2022 commune council elections to make it easier for local people to access public services.

“We will have some other new communes before the forthcoming elections in 2022,” minister Sar Kheng said at the handover ceremony for 87 pickups donated to district police forces on August 6, though he did not mention how many new communes the government will establish.

He added that the number of communes across the country at the time of the 2007 commune council elections to the 2012 elections increased from 1,621 to 1,633.

The number then further increased to 1,646 communes after the 2017 elections and now the total stands at 1,664.

He argued that the commune council elections encouraged sub-national authorities to play an important role in providing public services to local people.

“When it comes to security, order and the provision of administrative services at the sub-national, town, district and commune levels, we consider the administrative level closest to the people,” he said.

“The mission of the local administrative level is not different from that of the national level, and it is even more important because the local administrative level lives with those people. So the local administrative level knows how their people are doing and the people know whether the local administrative level is doing a good job or a bad one and if they support it or not,” he said.

In order to ensure the efficiency and quality of public service provision for people, the government has carried out public administration reforms, including establishing some new communes.

“In order to make them work well for people, we must provide guidelines, directions, principles, measures and means of work for them. If there are no posts or buildings to use as an administrative post, we have to build them so that they have places to work. In this era, we cannot let him go to work under a tree,” he added.

Sar Kheng emphasised that the ministry has built a large number of commune administrative buildings throughout the country. Currently, only about 80 out of 1,664 communes do not have these buildings.

Korn Savang, monitoring and advocacy coordinator at election monitoring NGO Comfrel, said the establishment of more communes is good for the sub-national administrations, but the government should not establish more communes in places where the population is still small in number.

“The establishment of communes depends on the number of people; it is called population density at the grass roots level. If the number of people is large and hard to control, more communes should be established.

“But for me personally, this establishment is not based on any law regarding how many people live in a certain area in order to establish more communes because we have yet to see such a definition,” he said.

According to Savang, the establishment of too many communes can lead wasteful expenditures from the national budget.

“When we establish too many communes and they contain a disproportionate number of people, it will increase national budget spending.

“The number of people needed to fulfil this work also increases more and more, and that is not in line with public services at the grass roots level. So, I think the establishment of more communes should come after careful consideration,” Savang said.