Cambodian opposition lawmakers have accused Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party of abusing aid resources by using cars funded by Germany for campaign activities.
A group of three opposition parliamentarians said that they had caught three men wearing CPP T-shirts driving a land cruiser marked with a logo symbolizing German-Cambodian development cooperation in Prey Veng province on Tuesday.
The men were officials using the vehicle to campaign for the CPP in Prey Veng, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) parliamentarians Mu Sochua and Kong Bora and Human Rights Party (HRP) lawmaker Ou Chanrith said, posting photos of the incident online.
Mu Sochua said the incident raised concerns about the fairness of the electoral process ahead of the general election coming up in July.
She told RFA’s Khmer Service Wednesday that “it is against electoral laws” for the ruling party to abuse state budgets and foreign officially funded machinery in political campaign activities.
“This shows it is not a free and fair election,” she said referring to the upcoming July national elections.
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment.
The SRP and HRP, which have formed an alliance to challenge the CPP in July’s vote, have warned that Cambodia’s election body is biased toward the ruling party and that registration of voters is flawed
Requesting Germany to investigate
The three lawmakers requested the German government to investigate the incident in Prey Veng and establish strict measures against the use of German-funded resources for campaign purposes by Cambodian officials, saying the evidence they found of abuse of foreign aid was “not an isolated incident.”
“It is a serious matter as it can affect the final results of the July 2013 election,” they said in a letter to German Ambassador Wolfgang Moser.
They asked that the government of Germany “give a clear message to the Royal Government of Cambodia that development aid is tied to respect for human rights and democratic rules.”
Moser said in a letter responding to their allegations that the embassy was investigating which organization the car belonged to and that it will “definitely make sure that any acts of misconduct by German organizations that are financed by public funds will be stopped with immediate effect.”
He added that the car does not belong to the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the country’s primary aid agency in Cambodia, and that the logo on the car was an old one that has not been in use since October last year.
Some reports had identified the cars as GIZ-funded.
Cambodia relies on foreign aid to cover as much as half of its spending, and Germany is one of its biggest bilateral donors.
Ahead of Cambodia’s last general election in 2008, the opposition reported that civil servants including military and police officers were removing license plates from their government vehicles in order to use them to campaign for the ruling party.
Election observers said traffic police had turned a blind eye to the cars without plates, which had been removed because government vehicles are not allowed to be used in campaign activities.
Reported and translated by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.