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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC works on complaints

NEC works on complaints

THE National Election Committee (NEC) has now heard three-quarters of the 41 cases

lodged for appeal. The remaining ten complaints, all of which regard problems with

polling day and ballot counting, will be heard in the week beginning August 18.

Complainants unhappy with the NEC's ruling have 72 hours to appeal their cases to

the Constitutional Council, which is the final arbiter. Prak Sok, a member of the

Council, said three cases had been lodged with the Council to date.

"We then have from ten to 20 days to work on the complaints," he explained.

"Up to now, we are working on one complaint from the SRP and two others from

Funcinpec, but we have not yet determined the date for [the hearings]."

One case that will not be appealed, but has outraged observers, is that of Yeun Sina.

Human rights workers expressed concern about the NEC's decision to uphold the fine

that the Provincial Election Commission (PEC) imposed in Kampong Cham.

The 25-year-old man was charged with obstructing a political campaign when he shouted

at a convoy of Funcinpec supporters and allegedly hit a driver of one of the trucks.

A human rights worker in the province told the Post that Sina had no way of paying

the five million riel ($1,250) fine.

"Yeun Sina is a grass-hoer who earns around three thousand riel a day to feed

his wife and a small child," said the man, who did not want his name used. "He

can't afford even ten or twenty thousand riel, let alone five million."

Observers said Sina was brought into the PEC hearing in handcuffs accompanied by

five prison guards. It later transpired that he is epileptic. An international human

rights worker expressed shock at the result of both hearings.

"This guy had no opportunity to have any defense council at the NEC or PEC,"

the rights worker said. "Of all the cases the NEC tried, they seem to have gone

looking for a case where the perpetrator had no political affiliation, which makes

it easier to push it through the system. It is shocking that out of all the cases

they had to choose from, they had to choose this guy."

Although it was reported in the local press that Sina was a CPP village chief, the

provincial human rights worker said this was not so. He said Sina was simply a normal

citizen with no political affiliation.

NEC spokesperson Leng Sochea replied that five million riel was the lowest possible

fine, and an appropriate way to warn Sina and others that the NEC was not "a

paper tiger".

Parties are allowed to lodge complaints to the NEC about voting day and ballot counting

problems, as well as appeal decisions made by the PECs.

The NEC refused to hear most of the complaints appealed to it. The NEC said the cases,

which had been ruled on by the PECs or the Commune Election Commissions (CECs) during

the campaign period, lacked sufficient evidence.

Funcinpec and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) joined election monitoring NGOs

Comfrel and Nicfec in decrying the NEC's inability to address complaints properly.

"Ranging from CEC to PEC to NEC, they don't have strong will and a clear standard

in resolving the conflict," said Comfrel's executive director, Koul Panha. "To

date they just tried to reject complaints forgetting that it is their duty to accept

them. There are also problems stemming from the inability of CEC and PEC."

Among the cases the NEC heard were five relating to polling day and vote counting.

A complaint filed by the SRP on August 2 led to the revision of the number of votes

in 14 communes in Svay Rieng. SRP and NEC representatives agreed that CEC staff had

made minor mistakes when recording the number of ballots. A similar reconciliation

was worked out in Kampong Thom.

On August 4 it ruled against a complaint lodged by the SRP in Poipet, where the party

wanted a re-vote in the area due to the low percentage of voters-fewer than 50 percent.

But the NEC's Sochea explained that the number of people voting was not relevant.

"There is no NEC law which states that less than 50 percent of voters will lead

to a re-vote," he said. "And the SRP's representative Ou Bunlong didn't

know exactly how many people came to vote. It means he was not very sure about his

complaint."

The NEC also ruled against two complaints from the SRP regarding recounts in Siem

Reap, when it transpired that all the SRP representatives had previously signed a

document approving the consequence of the voting.

On August 7 the NEC ruled against five appeals of PEC decisions. The first two were

Funcinpec complaints about gift-giving: the royalists in Kampot leveled the charge

against Hun Sen's wife, Bun Rany, the president of the Cambodian Red Cross; the party

also complained about the CPP doing the same in Kampong Thom.

For its part, the CPP lodged a complaint about the PEC's decision to fine a village

chief for obstructing a Funcinpec campaign in Battambang. The fourth case saw the

SRP appeal a PEC ruling on a disturbance at an opposition meeting. The fifth case

was that of Yeun Sina.

In all five cases, the NEC upheld the decisions of its provincial bodies. Prom Vicheth

Akara, head of the NEC's complaints office, said the PECs' decisions were upheld

because the provincial bodies were competent.

"The PECs worked carefully on those complaints and based them on the principles

of the NEC," he said. "Some other complaints were accepted by the NEC without

any hearing because of sufficient and reasonable evidences from the makers, especially

those asking for revision of the ballots."

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