Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted critics who accuse the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the National Election Committee (NEC) of committing fraud during the June 5 commune council elections, daring them to swear oaths on the truth of their accusations and to suffer “death by lightning or other misfortunes” should they prove false.

The premier made the remarks during the graduation ceremony of over 2,000 students from the Royal School of Administration on June 13, apparently in response to unnamed opposition groups who have alleged fraud in the elections, which the CPP won by a wide margin according to the preliminary tallies.

“Please help me. Teach me how to steal. Can you help teach me how to steal? And for those who accuse the NEC of being thieves or the CPP of being thieves, can you please teach them how to steal?” he asked rhetorically.

Hun Sen said the election process started at 7am and ended at 3pm when the ballots were counted at polling stations across the country.

He said there were still people who claimed that ballots had been stolen. He urged such critics to declare this openly and swear to it, noting that he knew they either would not dare to do it or regarded swearing an oath as a trivial matter.

Swearing an oath is not a small matter or a figure of speech or a joke like the opposition believes, rather it is a sacred ceremony carried out when presidents, prime ministers and members of parliaments take office, he said.

“If you accuse others of committing fraud – do you dare to swear upon its truth or else be struck by lightning or die by other misfortunes? Do not say that oaths are a laughing matter. Even the president of the US is sworn into office on a Christian Bible,” he said.

He said the preliminary results of the commune elections show that his party received more than 70 per cent of the vote and over 99 per cent of the commune chieftain seats as well as more than 80 per cent of the commune council seats.

The prime minister also encouraged opposition parties to negotiate with the NEC if they want to make complaints.

Thach Setha, vice-president of the Candlelight Party – the second largest with candidates fielded across the country, said that regardless of whether the recent elections were fair or not, the NEC should consider changes to some of the major preparation processes and address issues like the absence of the UN, which had previously monitored and evaluated the Kingdom’s elections, as observers.

He said the Candlelight Party has records, documents and evidence showing that the elections were neither fair nor the votes accurately counted. Even prior to the elections, he said his party candidate list was dissolved and some major organisations have no confidence in the elections and consider them an injustice.

“Are there any [independent] organisations that have issued statements recognising the election results as fair apart from the hired organizations? Just raise up your hand! This clearly shows the real situation and does not merit further discussion,” he told The Post on June 13.

Responding to Hun Sen’s calls for taking sworn oaths, Setha said it was not unusual for government officials to swear an oath before taking office, noting that almost all of them do so and yet the country’s lakes, forests and natural resources have still completely vanished despite that.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliances of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL) who participated in the elections as an observer, said that based on his observations, no one had said that the elections were an outright fraud, rather they were saying that the election process was not yet completely fair and transparent.

He added that – on the other hand, during the elections – there were some irregularities, such as the authorities writing down people’s names, authorities in civilian clothes entering the polling stations, and the closing of the polling stations and not allowing people to monitor the ballot counting process and so on.

“I’m not sure who said it was stolen, but from my position, I do not dare to say it was stolen – just that the electoral system made some people and parties lose trust in the process and this is directly related to the composition of the NEC, the members of which mostly come from the ruling party,” he told The Post on June 13.

Regarding allegations of ballot-rigging by political parties and opposition groups, NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on June 13 that the prime minister had pointed out the NEC’s accuracy and fairness in carrying out its duties because the process was not done in secret away from the prying eyes of political parties, observers, journalists and other relevant parties, but out in the open.

He added that in general, the election process was evaluated by national and international organisations as well as most of the political parties as having been conducted in a transparent, fair, safe, orderly, non-violent and non-threatening manner.

“Political parties that accuse NEC officials and have enough evidence can file complaints to the NEC regarding the irregularities that they have seen, but according to reports obtained by the capital and provincial electoral commissions, most of the complaints have no basis in evidence,” he said.

Sorida said the NEC on June 13 put together a working group to monitor and summarise the election results received from the electoral commissions in order to divide the seats among the winning candidates and prepare the official announcement of the results on June 27.

Asked to respond to the allegations made by Setha, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told The Post that if all the lakes, forests, mountains and natural resources under the control of the CPP have now vanished, then the people surely would not have voted for the CPP again.

“The issue he’s raising isn’t about the 2022 election, it’s one he’s been bringing up since 1993,” he said.