Prime Minister Hun Sen told sub-national administrations to increase their minimum quotas for appointing women to leadership positions, as he has observed that the number of women working as appointed officials remains limited despite gender equality being the goal of the government.

Speaking at the closing of the Ministry of Interior’s annual meeting on February 23, Hun Sen said most proposed appointments of officials at the provincial and district levels are still men.

“During a meeting with the National Council for Women recently, I observed that among the requests for appointment to new positions at the provincial and district levels, the number of women is too small.

“If we look at the deputy provincial governors who have been appointed recently, the number of women is too few. At the provincial level, we urge the appointment of two to three women as deputy provincial governors, but so far the number remains small. At the district level, the numbers are even smaller,” he noted.

He said that while officials keep saying that they respect gender equality, their requests do not reflect that reality, and thus he has decided to increase the number of women appointments for certain positions himself.

“We just keep talking about gender equality, gender equality, gender equality – but it does not exist in reality because we have not practised that. Are we lacking women? We can find a way to promote more women than our current numbers,” he said.

Hun Sen said that this commitment should not be seen as part of the election campaign for the July general election, but something that must be turned into reality. He suggested that if there is a replacement for any position at a provincial department, the recruitment should be set for “women only” and that he believed that local school teachers are qualified to apply.

“Some provinces have women as provincial governors, but even they don’t appoint women,” he said.

Separately, Hun Sen praised the sub-national level authorities for combating Covid-19. He said the “successful” fight against the pandemic was thanks to significant contributions by local authorities, and it was the result of the government’s decentralisation policies.

He also told provincial authorities to create channels on the Telegram messaging app to provide information to their people in a timely manner. He said providing speedy information to their people also contributes to fighting fake news.

“We must fight against fake news as the whole world is now doing. Fake news is so bad and brutal. It is not a kind of freedom of expression,” he said, adding that he had rhetorically asked foreign diplomats whether fake news is considered freedom of expression in their home countries.

The premier also told authorities to increase work in combating illegal drug trafficking, drug production and to further implement the “safe village-commune” policy.