Cambodia Cranks Up Election Process Raising Fraud Concerns

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Secretariat of the Election Commission in Battambang province, Aug. 8, 2016.
Secretariat of the Election Commission in Battambang province, Aug. 8, 2016.
RFA/Hum Hour

As Cambodian officials rolled out a new voter registration system on Thursday, questions were raised about the nation’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.

While Cambodian authorities announced a three-month registration process that will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, the U.N. ambassador to Cambodia expressed concern that the country’s current political situation could poison the process.

“The European Union has expressed concerns over certain actions of the authorities in implementing legal procedures against the opposition party’s officials, civil society’s representatives, and the National Election Commission (NEC) deputy general secretary,” said Ambassador George Edgar.

“Cambodia’s authorities must ensure an atmosphere that all political parties and nongovernmental agencies are able to do their jobs without obstacles,” he added during a ceremony announcing the launch of the registration system.

NEC Deputy Secretary-General Ny Chakriya is one of five people arrested by the government in its wide-ranging probe into an alleged affair opposition Cambodia national rescue party leader Kem Sokha had with a young hairdresser named Khom Chandaraty.

Staffers with the rights group ADHOC Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony were also arrested in the probe. Ny Chakrya and the activists are charged with bribery or accessory to bribery for allegedly attempting to pay Khom Chandaraty hush money.

The charges are viewed by many as an attempt by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to smear the opposition before local elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018.

While Hun Sen and the CPP have ruled the country for more than three decades, Cambodia’s ruling party suffered a dramatic drop in support during the country’s last election in 2013, and could see even more erosion in the upcoming elections.

Provincial questions

Edgar was not the only one raising concerns, as the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) also took issue with the transparency of the process.

COMFREL official Sin Tit Seiha said government recruiting of polling officials in Cambodia’s northwestern Battambang province was suspect as he questioned the number of former NEC officials who were selected.

“COMFREL has two projects. First, to observe the registration list once it has been generated,” he said. “We will look into it, then we can make the assessment.”

A Battambang election official disputed that notion, saying the selection of the officials was an open one.

“During the exam, officials from the national level as well as the provincial level came down,” said  Battambang Election Commission Secretary Vorn Porn.

Vorn Porn told RFA that there are many former NEC officials among the 430 contractors who were recruited, but did not give the total.

“The controllers of the exams were from the districts, with three from each district, and commune councils from every political party came to observe,” he explained.

The NEC was revamped last year, as part of a deal in July 2014 which saw opposition lawmakers return to the National Assembly following a 10-month boycott protesting a disputed national election in 2013.

The CPP was declared victorious in the 2013 election, sparking widespread protests and allegations of government control of the NEC, which oversees polls in the country.

Reported by Khe Sonorng and Hum Hour. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

Comments (5)

from Long Beach

The power of controlling election is in his hands. He will order his son, Hun Maneth who is old high-level positions in PM's bodyguard Unit. Hun Manith is a director of RCAF's military intelligence Unit and Dy Vichea who is his son-in-law who is a Head of National Police's central security Dept. and also Mr. Tar Bagh who is a Ministry of Defense will be involved in cracking down the voting processes by failing their leaders and breaking up their election rallies.

May 20, 2017 04:33 AM

Kem Ley

from California, USA

For my concern is the Hun Sen's government will allow the illegal immigrations (Vietnamese) to register to vote doesn't matter those people can speak Khmer one word or not.

Aug 19, 2016 08:07 PM

Anonymous Reader

UN and other organizations must prepare the earliest possible to prevent big trouble ahead in 2017. They must help prevent massive fraud or someone will get the blame. They must send as many observers they could spare.

Aug 19, 2016 12:40 PM

Anonymous Reader

Communist or ex-communist never respected their engagements and good in propaganda but never concrete works.

Aug 19, 2016 06:51 AM

Anonymous Reader

Hun Sen is doing whatever to maintain his power. It is difficult to get free & fair election while the election commission, police, military are not neutral. The God may help one day ! I wish most of the Cambodian people vote to change so that the ruling party might be difficult to make fraud.

Aug 19, 2016 12:33 AM

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