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Decision on EU funding for election committee due soon

EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar tests indelible ink at an NEC conference before June commune elections earlier in Phnom Penh.
EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar tests indelible ink at an NEC conference before commune elections held in June this year in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Decision on EU funding for election committee due soon

The European Union ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar, said on Friday he expected a decision within days on whether funding for Cambodia’s National Election Committee will be cut following the recent dissolution of the country’s only viable opposition party.

Speaking at an event on Friday to celebrate International Human Rights Day, Edgar said “human rights and respect for democratic principles are explicitly considered a key element of the cooperation agreement which we signed with Cambodia in 1997”. That cooperation, he said, included support for the NEC, which was pledged $12 million for election preparations in 2017 and 2018 by the EU. In an interview last week, Edgar said much of that has already been used for equipment.

Asked on Friday if the EU would cut funding, he said that doing so was “part of the consideration”, without elaborating what other measures were being discussed. “We don’t yet have a formal decision, but I would expect that to come in the next few days.”

National Election Committee Deputy Secretary-General Som Sorida yesterday called the funding threats “unjust”, adding that the EU had already provided about $5 million in funding.

“Even if we have no funds from the EU, NEC will continue their work because . . . we have many other [donor] countries,” he said, citing China, Japan and Russia as other major donors.

Hironori Suzuki, counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, reiterated Japan’s continued support in an email yesterday. “It is of utmost importance to have next year’s national election reflect the will of Cambodian people,” he said.

Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean

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