An election watchdog yesterday announced it had uncovered plans to move registration stations closer to military bases in Kampong Speu, Tbong Khmum and Kampong Chhnang provinces.
Speaking at a press conference, head of the Electoral Reform Alliance Koul Panha said the information, which he called “concerning”, came from the organisation’s observers, and formed one of the irregularities relating to security forces to have emerged during the registration period.
“There is a problem with transparency,” Panha said. “We also think there should be a mixture of people [registered] at one station; we cannot have only one group, as it could affect confidentiality during the elections”.
Panha also said there had been cases of policemen and soldiers wearing political logos near registration booths, which had resulted in a drop in enrollments at those locations, and cases of soldiers and police registering outside their native communes.
The latter complaints come after the National Election Committee gave formal approval to allow police and soldiers to register to vote in communes they’ve been assigned to guard on polling day.
The decision, a response to a request for clarification by the Interior Ministry, has raised concerns security personnel could be mobilised to give an advantage to the ruling party.
In a document dated October 24, the NEC stated that soldiers or police on missions to guard polling booths must provide documentation establishing their identities. Authorities in August announced 76,000 police, military police and soldiers would be mobilised to provide security for next year’s commune ballot.
Lists obtained by the Post show that 174 police officers have been assigned to provide security across the six communes of Battambang’s Bavel district.CNRP activist Los Cheng Lay said many of the officers had come from outside the district, though police chiefs in Bavel and Battambang were unreachable yesterday to clarify their origin.
CNRP lawmaker for Battambang Long Botta said though election security was important, the influx of personnel into small constituencies could impact the result either through numbers or intimidation.
“It’s very strange,” Botta said. “These great numbers of uniformed officers aren’t justified by security, but they could have an impact on the result.”
According to the ERA’s first summary of the registration process, the vast majority of the 6.39 million people registered over the first month and 26 days had followed the correct procedures.