Cambodia's Parliament to Question Polls Watchdog Over Reports

cambodia-comfrel-adhoc-may-2013.gif Comfrel Director Koul Panha (l) attends a press conference about the election with Adhoc director Thun Sary (c) in Phnom Penh, May 2, 2013.

Cambodia’s parliament will question the director of a local election watchdog to determine whether the organization should “face consequences” for its claims of irregularities in recent national polls, a spokesman for the legislative body said Thursday.

Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) chief Koul Panha will be summoned to testify about allegations that ink used to mark voters’ fingers in the July 28 polls was too easily washed off, National Assembly spokesman Chheang Von told reporters.

The group had violated the election law by “causing alarm” the day before the polls with a press conference raising concerns about the ink, he said.

Koul Panha will also be asked about reports Comfrel produced with the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) about names missing from voter rolls, Chheang Von said.

Chheang Von warned that the two groups could “be held responsible” if government ministries find the reports to be false and have “bad intentions” behind them.

Comfrel has raised concerns about the legitimacy of the disputed election which, according to official election results, was won by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

The opposition Cambodia National Recue Party (CNRP) has said it had victory snatched away by massive voting irregularities and has boycotted parliament and led several rounds of mass demonstrations in protest against the poll results.

Standing by reports

Koul Panha said Comfrel had no obligation to appear before the National Assembly—which currently contains only ruling party lawmakers—but would do so anyway.

Comfrel stands by its reports and has plenty of evidence to show the ink used in the election was easily washed off, he said.

“The black ink can be cleaned off with gasoline,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service, saying the group had informed election officials of the problem before the polls.

“We had informed the National Election Committee [which oversees the country’s polls] by July 26 that the ink could be cleaned off. We didn’t know whether they had tested it or not,” he said.

A formal summons has not yet been sent to Koul Panha and no date has been set for him to appear before the National Assembly.

At Comfrel’s July 27 press conference warning about potential problems with double voting, staff had demonstrated they could wash off the ink that election officials had claimed was indelible.

Reports released before the election by Comfrel and NDI said that up to 1.25 million people who were eligible to cast ballots were not on voter lists.

Reported by Van Vicha for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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