Ten of the 17 political parties which were contesting the June 5 commune council elections in Cambodia signed a joint letter, promising to curb alcohol harm if they are elected.
Movendi International member organization PDP-Center ran a successful campaign to make alcohol policy the priority it should be during local elections.

The letter was signed by diverse political parties including Khmer Will, FUNCINPEC, Cambodian Youth, Khmer Economic Development, Khmer National United, Cambodian Reform, Khmer United, Kampuchea Niyum, Ekpheap Cheat Khmer, and Cambodian Nationality.

The letter of commitment outlined the case for action: alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year and is associated with more than 200 serious health and injury conditions – including cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, stroke, and nerve problems – in addition to fueling road traffic crashes, as well as domestic and community violence.

In addition, almost 70% of Cambodians under the age of 35% still faced economic and social hardships. Alcohol is a serious obstacle to development in Cambodia.

According to the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC), in 2021 there were 2,670 road traffic crashes resulting in 1,497 deaths and 3,615 injuries. 4% of the crashes were due to driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition, alcohol-fueled violence against women and children was a major concern.

The letter said that alcohol prevention measures should include two of the three WHO-recommended alcohol policy best buys:

  1. Restrictions or bans on alcohol advertising,
  2. Restrictions on the availability of alcohol and an age limit for alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol harm in Cambodia and lack of WHO-recommended alcohol policy

Cambodia ranks among the countries in the world with the most years of life lost due to alcohol. Males who consume alcohol, drink more than 27 liter of pure alcohol per capita and year! Also heavy episodic alcohol use is a serious problem among Cambodian men, especially young males. 51% of males between the ages of 15 and 19 engage in binge alcohol use. Almost 9% of males have an alcohol use disorder. More than 3000 Cambodians die each year due alcohol liver cirrhosis caused by alcohol.

© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

As the country profile by WHO shows, Cambodia lacks most alcohol policy solutions, especially concerning alcohol availability and alcohol marketing. The country does not even have an age limit.

Perspectives from political parties on alcohol policy

Representatives of the 10 political parties after signing pledges on May 24 stating that they will enact stricter alcohol control measures if elected in the June 5 commune council elections. Yong Kim Eng of PDP is the second from the left. Photo credit: Heng Chivoan

Speaking after the signing, Khmer Will Party representative Sim Muyly, said that at a consultative council meeting, the party had asked the Minister of Information to prohibit alcohol advertising on television, radio and in the media. In response, the ministry had recently issued just such a ban. This was a positive result the party had already achieved, said Muyly, according to The Phnom Penh Post.

FUNCINPEC spokesman Nhoeun Raden also said that the signing of the letter was very important and also part of the party’s village and commune development policies. 

It is a real concern of FUNCINPEC, which is why it is part of our 9-point policy. We laid out these two principles.

We think a commitment by all political parties to work together to reduce alcohol consumption and the risks posed by alcohol is important”.

Nhoeun Raden, spokesperson, FUNCINPEC

Cambodian Youth Party representative Chhon Chanthorn said the party had always supported the reduction and effective prevention of alcohol use. Once the CYP gains commune chief seats, as well as a prime minister who will head the country, it will spread awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption widely and establish age limits for alcohol use, he added, as per The Phnom Penh Post.

We will also put measures in place to root out the corruption that leads to alcohol advertising, because we know the alcohol problem affects society and the many people who live without welfare.”

Chhon Chanthorn, representative, Cambodian Youth Party

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace (PDP-Center), a member organization of Movendi International, who arranged the signing ceremony with the ten political parties, said the products and practices of the alcohol industry had caused a lot of harm to social security and public health in Cambodia. If political parties wanted to address community security issues, they would first have to address alcohol-related issues.

Today is a great day.

These representatives of these ten parties have committed to reducing alcohol harm – as well as promoting young women entrepreneurs – when they are elected to any commune positions.”

Yong Kim Eng, president, People’s Centre for Development and Peace (PDP-Center)

Growing recognition of the need to reduce alcohol availability

After years of inertia in terms of alcohol policy, there seems to be growing recognition in Cambodia of the need to take action to better protect people and communities against alcohol harm.

For instance, Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism issued a directive to ban selling and consumption of all types of alcohol for two days — a day before and on the commune election day.

The move is to help ensure that the commune election on June 5 is free and fair without violence, threat, intimidation and other incidents, which could be compromised by alcohol, Ministry of Tourism’s permanent secretary of state Tith Chantha said in the directive, according to Xinhua reporting.

The owners or managers of karaoke parlors, night clubs, discotheques, and beer gardens across the country must suspend their businesses for two days on June 4 and 5, 2022.

The owners or managers of all tourism businesses that offer food services must also stop selling and serving alcoholic drinks for the two days.”

Tith Chantha, permanent secretary of state, Ministry of Tourism

He advised tourism department chiefs across the country to promote the temporary alcohol ban to all owners or managers of such entertainment and hospitality facilities and businesses.

The elections were to choose commune chiefs and councilors for Cambodia’s 1,652 communes. About 9.2 million eligible voters, or 87.9% of the total population of 18 years old and above, are expected to cast their ballots.

Held once every five years, the fifth mandate of commune elections are seen as a bellwether of the governing party’s support ahead of the general elections in 2023.

In the last commune elections in June 2017, the CPP won 1,156 communes of the total 1,652 ones.

Source Website: The Phnom Penh Post