Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New NEC members insist they are neutral




New NEC members insist they are neutral

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former Funcinpec member Nuth Sokhom (right), former deputy director of the government's human rights council Dim Sovannarom (centre) and Cambodian Nationality Party member Hel Sarat greet lawmakers at the National Assembly session where they were confirmed appointees to the National Election Commission, replacing three CNRP-nominated members who resigned in protest of the party’s dissolution. Photo supplied

New NEC members insist they are neutral

The last formal reshuffling of power following the opposition party’s dissolution was completed yesterday, as three National Election Committee members were confirmed into office and 11 additional CPP lawmakers were sworn in to the National Assembly.

Nuth Sokhom, former Funcinpec lawmaker; Hel Sarat, formerly of the Cambodian Nationality Party; and Dim Sovannarom, former deputy director of the government’s human rights body, were all confirmed to the NEC, replacing three CNRP-nominated members who resigned in protest of the party’s dissolution in November.

With the addition of Sovannarom, who according to a former colleague ran a CPP election campaign in Takeo province in 2013, five of the nine NEC members now have strong ties to the ruling CPP. The nine-member body is supposed to be made up of four nominees from the ruling party and four from the opposition, with one “neutral” representative from civil society.

In interviews outside of the National Assembly yesterday, all three members defended the new makeup of the NEC. When asked if the body could still be considered neutral after the resignation of CNRP-nominated members, Sokhom responded cryptically.

“Do you know the word ‘struggle’? Struggle means difficulty and sacrifices in life. I will follow my conscience,” he said. “I will do my best to serve,” he added, when pressed further, before walking away from reporters.

Meanwhile, Sovannarom, whose position on the Cambodian Human Rights Committee was equal to secretary of state, maintained he was neutral. “Everyone has a right to expression . . . But the truth is the truth. The important thing is that I think that everything has operated and proceeded correctly,” he said.

A monitor shows a session of the National Assembly in progress yesterday in Phnom Penh
A monitor shows a session of the National Assembly in progress yesterday in Phnom Penh. Sahiba Chawdhary

Sam Kuntheamy, director of election watchdog Nicfec, said the government appeared to have circumvented normal procedures in order to put another CPP-linked member on the committee.

Sovannarom was not nominated by a party and instead applied for the position on his own. In a speech on November 23, Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested one of the three NEC members should come from civil society, adding the proposal was “just my idea”.

NEC member Hang Puthea remains the neutral civil society member.

“In the original agreement between the CNRP and CPP, there is supposed to be only one from an NGO . . . It seems like the government nominated [Sovannarom],” Kuntheamy said.

Political analyst Meas Nee said the current political situation shows that the NEC has already failed to be independent.

“An independent NEC does not only matter the day they begin to vote . . . The NEC has to be in charge of the whole process of the election,” Nee said, explaining that as a “national mechanism” the NEC has failed to ensure a democratic election field.

Also yesterday, the National Assembly approved 16 new lawmakers, 15 from the ruling CPP and one from Funcinpec replacing new NEC member Sokhom.

Eleven of the CPP members took seats formerly held by the CNRP, which were refused by the League for Democracy Party and Khmer Anti-Poverty Party. The rest replaced ruling party lawmakers who resigned to contest the upcoming Senate election.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,