The UN Office for Human Rights has criticized the ruling CPP for using government
machinery to conduct opinion polls to boost its image ahead of the elections.
In a statement issued on August 2, special representative Peter Leuprecht said commune
and police officials should not be involved in political activities.
As a part of its election strategy the CPP has enlisted the services of commune and
police officials to revive its network down to the village level.
"Their involvement is not only contrary to the conduct of free and fair commune
elections, but also violates [commune election] law," Leuprecht stated.
Article 129 of the law stipulates that government institutions should maintain neutrality
and impartiality and should not carry out any activity in support of any political
party or its candidates.
"We have confirmation that it has been going on in Phnom Penh since May,"
a senior observer at the UN Cambodia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
(UNCOHCHR) told the Post.
"It's very important that the government separates its duties [of serving the
interests of all Cambodians] and its party activities, otherwise the politicization
of the government and society will be perpetuated," the observer said.
To ascertain which candidates stood a better chance of public acceptance, government
officials approached members of the public in Phnom Penh and elsewhere with a list
of names and photographs of 22 CPP members, along with their education and position
in the party. People were asked to choose the 11 they would like to see as their
While the opinion poll per se is not unusual - Funcinpec is apparently planning a
similar exercise - the use of government machinery is against commune election law.
The UN office said its investigation had found that the exercise was still going
on, despite assurances to the contrary in June.
At that time the CPP defended itself saying that officials only undertook weekend
polling activities in plainclothes. The UN observer said that it was not a matter
of when polling was done; rather the problem was that authority figures were involved.
However, Dr Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy,
doubted the exercise, known as mock elections, was illegal.
"It falls in a gray area. The party justifies the exercise on the grounds that
these officials also happen to be their members."
Meanwhile, Leuprecht expressed concern that recent incidents of political threats
and violence might impact the electoral process.
Referring specifically to the recent killings of two candidates, Leuprecht said fear
of violence might prevent people from fully exercising their right to vote.