Cambodia's election watchdog and human rights groups on Thursday demanded that the national election body post a list of voters for upcoming crucial elections in all villages and involve key political parties in the supervision of the polling process.
The National Election Committee (NEC) has to meet the two basic conditions for "free, fair and legitimate elections," officials of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), and human rights groups LICADHO and ADHOC told a joint news conference in Phnom Penh.
They expressed concern over the lack of transparency in preparations for the polls along with what they felt was weak management in the selection of ground election supervisors and the "poor quality" of the voters list.
“The two recommendations will help voters to have confidence in the election," said ADHOC Director Thun Saray.
"It will allow for a free and fair election,” he said.
He warned that if their requests were not considered, they would rally the international community to back their demands.
While the NEC has not directly responded to the requests, the panel's secretary-general Tep Nytha told RFA's Khmer Service that the committee has already complied with all election laws.
Local rights groups have charged that the NEC heavily favors the ruling party, but the NEC maintains that its nine members—who were approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party-dominated parliament last year—are independent and do not need to be changed.
Tep Nytha said the NEC is not influenced by any political parties and cannot accept any electoral reform proposals before the July vote.
"The NEC can’t accept any recommendations from NGOs or political parties to reform any of the electoral processes for this election,” he said.
The four election watchdog and rights groups want the NEC to post the validated voters list in every village office immediately so that voters whose names have been omitted from the list have enough time to apply for re-registration.
They also want the NEC to allow observers from all political parties to stand directly behind the secretary of polling stations to ensure that the election procedure is being carried out efficiently.
Observers should also be permitted to verify voters’ data on the voter list against their identity documents to stamp out election fraud resulting from the use of falsified documents, they said.
The four groups also called for the establishment of an ad hoc commission to recruit, monitor, and accredit commune election panels made up of members of political parties holding seats in parliament and which have registered to contest the 2013 election.
"If these considerations are not resolved before election day, we are concerned that the upcoming election will see a loss of trust and legitimacy in the eyes of national and international stakeholders," they said in a joint statement.
Leaders of Cambodia’s main opposition party held mass protests in the capital last week in a push for electoral reforms, but called off a march after the NEC agreed to study demands for changes in election procedures.
The National Rescue Party (NRP), a coalition set up to challenge Hun Sen’s ruling party, had earlier threatened to march from Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to the offices of the NEC, defying warnings by the authorities.
The NRP had also called on the authorities to allow its chief, exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, to participate in the elections.
Sam Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile in France since 2009, facing a total of 11 years in prison over a string of convictions that critics contend are politically motivated. The NEC has said that he cannot stand in the coming elections because of his convictions.
The NRP is a merger of the opposition leader's Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP) led by another opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann said Thursday that if the NEC continues to deny the recommendations by the NGOs, the party will hold massive protests to drum up public support.
Hun Sen on Thursday urged the local media to disseminate a recording of speeches by Sam Rainsy and his party's number two Kem Sokha attacking each other before the merger of their parties.
"All radio stations must broadcast it. They attacked each other. I like listening to [their speeches attacking each other] and I laughed about it,” Hun Sen said.
Reported by Moniroth Morm and Den Ayuthyea for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.