Sihanoukville – a tall-order assignment for the new governor

PHNOM PENH--The recent collapse of a seven-story building that killed 28 people and 26 others in the beach city of Sihanoukville has resulted in the change of the top guard in charge of Preah Sihanouk province. Yun Min, who was the provincial governor at the time of the disaster, resigned and has been replaced by Kuoch Chamroeun, the former governor of Kampong Cham province in eastern Cambodia. 


All eyes are now on Kuoch Chamroeun, who was officially inducted to assume what can be considered as a ‘tall-order’ assignment. 


The news about his appointment to lead Preah Sihanouk province, in southwestern Cambodia, has stirred both excitement and concern. Excitement – because the job represents the honor and confidence the government has bestowed upon him to manage a province which seems to offer no shortages of scandalous stories. Concern – because it is a small province with a small population but with plenty of problems.


During the ceremony to officially introduce the new governor on 29 June, Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior, heaped praise on Kuoch Chamroeun for his past experiences and achievements in various capacities, including his latest tenure as the governor of the larger and more populous Kampong Cham province. 


Days earlier, Prime Minister Hun Sen had also spoken volume about the competence of Kuoch Chamroeun and picked him to take the helm in Preah Sihanouk province.


In recent years, the province – and more precisely its provincial town of Sihanouville – has been experiencing dramatic changes and progress in many aspects thanks largely to the sudden influx of Chinese investments. But along with the money have also come many issues. They include illegal construction, theft, insecurity issues caused by the Chinese nationals residing in the town, traffic congestion, land disputes, polluted beaches, gradual erosion of the town’s traditional identity, environmental problems, exodus of Western-owned businesses  – just to name a few. 


“Preah Sihanouk province is small but has so many problems,” Sar Kheng said during the official swearing-in ceremony for Kuoch Chamroeun. The need to preserve the province’s identity and the beauty of its beaches is among the list of priorities he gave the new governor to work on.


Kuoch Chamroeun used to work as the governor for three different districts (Khan) in Phnom Penh before he was appointed as the governor of Kampong Cham in 2017.


Now with his new tenure, he has a long list of tasks to deal with head-on: land disputes, traffic congestion, illegal construction activities, hygiene problems, general security issues, worsening beach pollution, the need to restore the city’s identity and beauty to attract tourists. 


The list can be longer. Moreover, a key challenge for Kuoch Chamroeun now is also to find the way for applying the kind of ‘art of leadership’ he has accumulated from his previous job in the new territory – a hot spot.


He will need to make sure that all local government agencies under his watch work together in a good coordination towards achieving his long-term goals in the benefits of the local population – and the country at large. It is a ‘tall order’ of him and time will tell whether he will prevail or fail. 


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