Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Minimum conditions’ for elections outlined

‘Minimum conditions’ for elections outlined

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Voters line up for the national election at a polling station in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in June, 2018. Heng Chivoan

‘Minimum conditions’ for elections outlined

A group of 64 NGOs and associations made recommendations in an open letter to the government which they declared were the “minimum conditions” for the coming 2022 commune council elections to be legitimate, based on what they say are the broadly recognised principles of all genuine, free and fair elections.

The recommendations included allowing all political parties to actively participate in political activities and stand for elections and revisions to the composition of the National Election Committee (NEC).

They also urged greater political neutrality and independence for the armed forces and courts and the ability for the media and civil society organisations to operate freely.

The NGOs and associations signing the statement include the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc), Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA), Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), Committee for Free and Fair Elections (COMFREL), Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (Licadho), Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CamboJa) and a number of other labour unions, student organisations, rights organisations and indigenous communities.

Yong Kim Eng, director of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, which is one of the undersigned NGOs, told The Post on July 15 that the aim of making these recommendations was to call for all relevant parties and stakeholders to participate in the 2022 commune elections and to ensure they are held freely and fairly.

He said the recommendations were made to clarify the situation and enable an environment where a political solution that allows all political parties to run candidates in the elections and contest them freely and without fear of reprisal.

“We wanted all political parties to end the conflicts that arise every time there is an election and we want to propose solutions and for them to forgive each other in order to find a way forward between Khmer and Khmer,” he said.

The NGOs, unions and associations said they wanted to see people actively participate in the election process and to see political parties express their views and criticisms in a constructive manner.

Kim Eng added that Cambodia had experienced all kinds of problems in regards to its elections and those issues made a great many people and political parties worried and fed up with the election process, but he believed Cambodian politicians could do what the organisations requested and wanted to see happen.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the elections organised by the NEC follow the law fully as stipulated in the Constitution and therefore, the requests by the organisations and associations are not up to the NEC to decide upon and out of their hands essentially.

“The advocacy by any civil organisation or group must get to the point of what they really want and whatever that is must be significantly in agreement with all the legal aspects because the NEC is performing its role in organising elections based on the laws. Relevant stakeholders have assessed every election as acceptable,” he said.

Puthea said the NEC is already preparing for Cambodia’s commune council elections, which are set to take place on June 5 next year.

Cambodia Reform Party (CRP) founder Ou Chanrath supported the recommendations, saying they were all relevant to the forthcoming elections, but he did not expect that they will be taken under serious consideration until there is a change in the NEC’s leadership.

He said although the NEC claimed to be independent and neutral, that was impossible because its chairman and the majority of its members were appointed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

He said if the NEC wants the public’s trust, its chairperson must be appointed by NGOs, professors or some acceptable neutral body.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the CPP-led government has never restricted rights and freedoms or bullied and threatened anyone during any election period. However, he did point out that the law bans any insults that affect the dignity of others.

“No country has ever had unlimited rights and freedoms, let alone Cambodia. Not even in the US or England and France. For example, during the European football tournaments the English fans made a mess on the pitch. Now, they are wanted by the law. That’s how it is,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in

  • Is Cambodia’s microfinance sector running its course?

    Economic growth and the strength of the banking system might have prompted a slow decline of the microfinance segment that has been raising a population ‘The MFI business model is over,” opined David Van, a Cambodian investment expert, recently. He felt that in a couple