As a Ministry of Interior official yesterday confirmed the investigation into the election monitoring coalition known as the “Situation Room” was ongoing, rumours swirled on Facebook – fanned by local media reports – that three members of the group had fled the country.
Two of the monitors, however, maintained yesterday that they were on official visits and would be back in the next few weeks.
The Ministry of Interior said last week it was probing the coalition for not properly registering with the government, a directive that came from Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday.
“We don’t have the result [of the meeting] yet. The technical team did not submit it to me yet,” Secretary of State Pol Lim said yesterday, referring to meetings held last week to assess any infractions by the Situation Room.
However, local media reports that three members of the group were not in the country seemed to be misconstrued by some – including recently elected CPP Commune Chief Chhay Thy – to mean that the three may have fled to avoid the investigation.
The three are Koul Panha, of election watchdog Comfrel; Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central; and Pa Nguon Teang, director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media.
Panha yesterday said he was attending an electoral management conference in Tblisi, Georgia, and would be back this week. Tola said he and Nguon Teang were in Australia and slated to return around mid-July.
He also questioned the validity of the investigation, saying the Situation Room was a short-term project, and not a new body in itself. “The NGOs were only mobilising their resources together. There is no requirement in LANGO to register,” he said, referring to the Law on Associations and NGOs.