US Ambassador William Todd has criticised discussion over the political neutrality of NGOs and election watchdogs at recent election reform talks as an “unnecessary distraction”.
“I strongly believe that any effort to restrict the independence of NGOs would be a major step backward in Cambodia’s democratic development, especially as it relates to election monitoring,” Todd wrote in his column for the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper.
A joint election reform committee agreed last month to 14 areas of proposed reform that – on the urging of the ruling party – included the neutrality of NGOs, despite the opposition calling it “irrelevant”.
“Given the urgent need to press forward with genuine reforms that will improve the electoral process, debating the role of civil society groups . . . is an unnecessary distraction,“ Todd wrote.
The government has accused election watchdogs of trying to discredit the election on behalf of the opposition.