A Cambodia National Rescue Party commune council member in Battambang has accused his party of “corruption” for asking commune election candidates to pay up to $350 into the party coffers, though a provincial official yesterday insisted the payment was strictly for campaign expenses.
The allegations came to light after two officials – one in Lvea commune, in Battambang’s Bavel district, and another in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district – aired their complaints to Khmer Power Party founder Soeurn Serey Ratha, who then went public with them in local media.
Lvea commune council member Im Hai – one of the complainants and a member of the opposition since 1997, when he joined the Sam Rainsy Party – confirmed yesterday that the first five candidates on the commune election list had been asked to pay.
According to Hai, CNRP lawmaker and head of the Battambang working group Ky Vandara instructed prospective candidates in a meeting on December 5 to pay between $150 and $350, depending on their placement in the list. “Collecting money from the candidates is bad corruption in the party. Please [stop] taking money from the candidates,” he said.
Vandara yesterday acknowledged that he had asked the candidates to pay, but denied that the payments were a form of corruption. “They [the candidates] have an obligation to contribute to the election campaign in their commune – the money that is collected is used for the commune,” Vandara said, adding that the money was needed to pay for things like printing and transportation.
He noted that if a candidate was elected, they would receive a salary for their new position, making up for their previous expenditures.
The second person to contact Ratha with a similar complaint allegedly identified herself as a CNRP official from Mongkol Borei district, but could not be reached for comment.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, meanwhile, also denied corruption allegations, while maintaining that there was no national policy for candidates to pony up for campaign costs.
“We don’t have any problems . . . There is nothing related to corruption,” he said.
He added that the national CNRP only instructed each commune to raise a minimum of $1,000 to finance their campaigns, but how they raised it was up to them.
“They have to raise money [to run the election campaign] from themselves or among the public … They discuss [this matter] amongst themselves,” he said, adding that the party would not look into the matter and characterising the complaints as an attempt to denounce the integrity of the party.
“I don’t care” about this, he added.
Sovann noted that candidate nominations will continue until March. Commune elections are scheduled for June 4.