The Preah Vihear Provincial Council has instructed officials to improve their response to the requests and needs of the community, urging local authorities to focus on the provision of public services and work to resolve disputes outside the judicial system.
The instruction came at a press conference held at the Office of the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on February 15, during which they reviewed progress made last year and outlined working priorities for this year.
Preah Vihear Provincial Council head Long Sovann revealed that council members were assigned to work with the municipal administration in collecting data, proposals and suggestions in order to prepare reports for the provincial council meetings to address and meet the needs of the people.
Sovann said the provincial council had organised outreach and consultation forums in districts, which in 2019 received 53 requests and suggestions and resolved 45 cases.
However, in 2020 and 2021, the provincial council was not able to organise the forum due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Despite the halt in physical meetings, Sovann said the council had nonetheless “provided continuous training and capacity development for members to engender the knowledge, skills and attitude [necessary] to provide better services to the people,” he said.
Sovann also acknowledged that the requests and concerns of some inhabitants had not been addressed in time. Road links between villages, he conceded, were a sore point for commune residents, with some villages still relatively inaccessible – a fact he blamed on a lack of construction funding.
The provincial council has set out a plan for provincial development in 2022 that encompasses several factors. These include continuing to organise the forum, providing support for local projects and responding to requests for assistance and complaints in a timely manner.
The provincial council has said it will continue to strengthen mediation mechanisms and support out-of-court dispute resolution through the so-called Provincial Citizens’ Office.
It pledged to strengthen policies, set out development plans, create intra-provincial investment programmes and outline budget strategies to meet development needs.
Teuk Krahom commune chief Vorn Sarom said economic development in the province in the last few years has seen infrastructure within villages improve.
He pointed out that several “rough” roads had been upgraded to gravelled ones, and that markets had been set up for the exchange of different types of goods, unlocking the economic vitality of the commune.
Sarom also pointed out the importance that the introduction and practice of the concept of gender equality had in improving the economy of the commune, nothing equality as having been crucial to the proper functioning of all local activities, especially in the services, agriculture, healthcare and education industries.
Gender equality has been an important factor in mediating cases of dispute fairly and justly.
Sarom said his officials have so far mediated and helped resolve 186 cases of dispute, and that his commune has strengthened the implementation of the law on prevention of domestic violence and protection of victims, as well as the law on the suppression of human trafficking.
He highlighted the benefits of private means of mediation, saying that it had often arrived at a compromise that was more beneficial for all parties involved than outcomes of the legal system.
“When we use mediation mechanisms, [the parties] are happy. If we mediate legally, there are winners and losers. So we try to get people to use the mediation mechanism based on the win-win principle,” he said.
The outline of the working priorities of the Prear Vihear province comes at an important time in its economic development. There are a number of untapped resources in the province that have potential to bring significant income to the community.
Important mineral resources including gold, iron, copper and lead have been discovered in Preah Vihear province, but it is not yet possible to mine any of it due to a combination of factors including a lack of permits issued by the government.
The province is also home to a number of ancient temples, including the Preah Vihear temple at the summit of Dangrek mountain, along the Cambodia-Thai border, Koh Ker temple, and Preah Khan Kampong Svay, that have potential to become tourist attractions.
Preah Nimith Waterfall, on the Cambodia-Laos border, has also been noted by officials as having high tourism potential.
The government has also been constructing reservoir dams in Rovieng district’s Raksa commune and Chey Sen district’s Putrea commune. Combined, the reservoirs have the capacity to store about 256.9 million cubic metres of water to supply both agriculture and general use, according to a report by provincial council.