Several tour guide associations in Siem Reap received a prepared statement from the Provincial Department of Tourism asking them to sign and thumbprint a note of acceptance of the election results released by the National Election Committee on Monday. At least half a dozen of such signed statements of support were disseminated by the government.
Theam Bunthin, president of the 450-member-strong Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association, said the director of the Siem Reap Department of Tourism contacted his association seeking the signature and thumbprint from a leader saying the election was free and fair.
“I did not sign the statement because the associations respect a statute saying they are impartial and non-partisan. Our institution works independently.… As for the elections, we have already fulfilled our duty as citizens,” Bunthin said.
On the condition of anonymity, another association leader who employs 500 guides told the Post yesterday that the association sent a letter to the Tourism Department informing them that they would not condone the statement claiming support of the election results.
“Our association neither supports nor rejects any election results; we are citizens and we have already voted. We were asked to support the results saying they are perfect and just, but we all know the elections were not just,” he said.
“If there will be any letter from my association, it will not depict the will of my association. We had a meeting on Monday and they did not support it either.”
Tep Rithy, a member of the Tourist Guide Taxi Association at Siem Reap Airport, said: “I was not thrilled when I heard the news, many people were not happy with the election results because they were released without transparency and many irregularities have yet to be resolved, while an investigation committee has not been formed.”
Ngov Sengkak, director of the Siem Reap Tourism Department, could not be reached for comment, but in local media he was quoted as saying he prepared the statements of support in case they were requested by organisations.
Siem Reap deputy governor Bun Tharith said the provincial government did not ask the Tourism Department to seek support for the election results.
“The provincial government did not order this, but it is not essential that we give them permission to ask for support. Even if they sign in support, the results will be the same,” Tharith said.
Political analyst Kem Ley said it was inappropriate for the department to even seek such support.
“When registering as an association, the Ministry of Interior does not allow participation in politics, and if we support [a certain political party] as an individual, it’s not a problem, but on behalf of an organisation is wrong,” Ley said.
“Some organisations face problems with the government. If they don’t support the government, they will face problems like not receiving a new memorandum of understanding with the government.”