Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) president Keo Remy on June 7 met with Roueida El Hage, the newly-arrived representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia, in the wake of the recent elections.
The meeting came as the political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the National Election Committee (NEC) continued to raise arguments regarding the conditions under which the June 5 commune council elections were held, with some regarding the election as fair and free, while others dispute that characterisation.
“No one forced the people to vote or prevented them from going to the polls, and they voted by secret ballot so no one could see which party they had voted for. We are happy that our people have choices available to them. I was concerned that they would only have one party to choose from,” Remy said.
He said that Cambodia – as stated in its Constitution – adheres to a multi-party democratic system and that this article of the founding document cannot be amended. He said the Cambodian people had freely expressed their will through the elections, which are organised every five years.
Shortly before the elections, OHCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell alleged that there had been threats, intimidation and obstruction targeting opposition candidates ahead of the June 5 elections – statements which the Cambodian government said were “fallacious, politicised and one-sided” as well as unwarranted.
NEC on June 7 said they had received a total of 65 complaints from participating political parties regarding alleged irregularities on the day before the election and during the polls.
NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post that the 65 complaints were filed variously by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Candlelight Party (CP) and Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP).
Two complaints were filed with the Kampong Cham and Siem Reap provincial election commissions against commune electoral commissions in each province.
“The subject of the complaints can be divided into two categories: Complaints for prosecution [36 cases] and complaints on irregularities [29 cases]. Prosecution complaints allege that chapter 14 of the commune council election law has been breached and a crime has therefore been committed, while irregularity complaints are related to processes that could affect the election results but are not criminal in nature,” Sorida explained.
Although many political parties and observers said the elections were free, fair and just, two political parties — Candlelight Party and Kampucheaniyum Party — along with five NGOs issued statements saying the elections were not fairly held.
Five CSOs, including Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) and ADHOC, issued a jointed statement saying that they had noted some irregularities at some polling stations.
The irregularities, they said, were the prevention of observers in two communes of Tbong Khmum province, with some stations closing their doors during the vote counting and failure to post election results forms at the stations after the counting was done by NEC officials.
Sorida refuted these allegations, saying that the general public has no right to get into the polling or vote counting stations and that these provisions are stated in the law on the commune council elections.
Citing article 30, he said only officials designated by the NEC, political party candidates and observers holding cards issued by the NEC were permitted to get into the vote counting station and its vicinity.
He said political parties should file complaints if they see any irregularities during the elections and the NEC will solve the complaints based on the law and the principle of justice as stated in their motto: Independence, Neutrality, Truth, Justice and Transparency.