VOD Radio Program “Good Service, Good Society”: A Window of Opportunity to Promote Good Governance at Local Level

 

More than 10 kilometers at the western outskirts far away from Phnom Penh, a phone rang while Ms. Thorn Srey Pov alias Norn, a former garment worker from Prey Veng province currently living in a small rented room in Dangkor district, was looking after her one-year old baby. It was a phone call made by a VOD radio operator after Norn successfully requested to join “Good Services, Good Society”, a one-hour radio program broadcasting every Tuesday on Sarika FM 106.5 MHz in Phnom Penh from 14:00 to 15:00.  

The main objective of the “Good Service, Good Society” is to allow local people opportunities to address their concerns or challenges they are facing in their community and find solution for the problems.

In a tearful voice, Norn who lost her 8-year old son four months ago said her son died after falling from a 47-year old dilapidated bridge in Tonle Chrey village, Kanhchom commune, Pear Rang district, Prey Veng. The bridge is deadly dangerous in the sense that its condition is too old and it is tilting with no vertical hangers. Sadly, four months after her son died, nothing has been done by local authorities. Norn decided to join the program to speak up.

The incident, according to Norn, is not a new case. In fact, several cases of such incident happened in her community long time ago.  Local authorities, however, have made less effort to improve safety for local people crossing the bridge.  Two months before her son’s incident, as Norn recalls, her sister-in-law also fell from the bridge. Not long after that, a 15-year-old female student also fell from that bridge. Even on the day of her son incident, there were two separate incidents.  An old man fell from the bridge in the morning while Norn’s son fell in the evening. The old man was lucky as he was rescued by people nearby. Norn’s son, however, was not that lucky because it was in late evening and nobody saw him falling down. He died.

Taking these chronological incidents into consideration, it is obviously clear that local authorities failed to take preventive mechanisms to prevent the same incidents from happening.

Reached by a VOD radio operator on January 17, 2017, Tonle Chrey village chief Mr. Chhin said that there is a plan to repair the bridge, but he could not tell when exactly the plan will be implemented. “We do not have enough money to do it. We need to wait for people on the top (high-ranking officials)”, said the village chief.

Mr. Ith Sin, Kanhchom commune chief acknowledged the incident. According to Sin, in principle, the plan to build the bridge was already approved. Admittedly, Sin said he did not know when exactly the plan is executed. Instead of answering what kind of interim preventive mechanisms he is going to take to prevent further incidents, Sin said he would urge relevant people to push the construction plan.
Clearly, there is no any interim mechanism. Waiting without taking any interim preventive mechanism, however, is not a policy of choice. If it continues, it is highly likely that Norn’s son incident might not be the last case.  

The incident of Norn’s son is an outstanding case related to failure of good governance at local level. Still, it is not a single case. In other words, such kind of problem exists nationwide in Cambodia. The main of objective of “Good Service, Good Society”, therefore, is to provide local people window of opportunity to speak up and request for change to improve their community.

Statistically, 37 different issues related to local government were discussed and broadcasted in “Good Service, Good Society” program in 2016. As a result, 10 cases were solved while other 13 cases are under ongoing investigation. VOD is committed to pushing new and remaining cases forward.

The production team of the said radio program are optimistic that solutions are not that far. Launched in 2010, “Good Service, Good Society” has been playing its critical role in echoing concerns of local people and holding concerning local authorities responsible for their assigned duties. The team leader said “As we keep moving, we believe in our philosophy that good governance starts from participation of the local people and authorities.”  (Sek Sophal)