Four political parties have requested the National Election Committee (NEC) to withdraw its defamation lawsuit against Candlelight Party (CP) vice-president Son Chhay over his critical comments on the June 5 commune elections.

The four parties – CP, Khmer Will (KWP), Cambodian Reform (CRP) and Grassroots Democratic (GDP) – made the request on August 31 during their meeting with NEC on their proposed electoral reform, according to KWP president Kong Monika.

“We asked NEC to reconsider because it is a criminal complaint. Son Chhay and other politicians were merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression regarding the elections,” he said.

Monika said NEC, as an independent body, should act as a role model and ensure that political parties could take part in future elections without fears for legal action.

“In this [Chhay] case, it's strange that the referee also plays in the game,” he said, noting that he could understand that NEC filed the complaint to protect its reputation.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said NEC has defended its clear position with regard to the complaint. He stressed that it was Chhay who should come forward to show hard evidence to prove that the elections were rigged as alleged.

“If we don’t file a complaint against him, how could the public trust NEC? In this case, if we withdraw our complaint, it would mean that NEC accepts Chhay's claimes. Therefore, NEC will not withdraw this complaint,” Puthea said.

The lawsuit stemmed from Chhay's interview with the online media outlet Cambodia Daily alleging that votes were stolen or bought, and therefore did not reflect the will of the people.

NEC has demanded that Chhay issues a public apology.

Chhay said on September 1 that he would appear for questioning as summoned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.