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Comfrel critiques opacity of voter list review process

Comfrel director Koul Panha (second right) speaks at a press conference on the National Election Committee’s work resolving opposition complaints in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Comfrel director Koul Panha (second right) speaks at a press conference on the National Election Committee’s work resolving opposition complaints in Phnom Penh yesterday. Hong Menea

Comfrel critiques opacity of voter list review process

The National Election Committee yesterday continued to wade through thousands of disputed names on the electoral roll that the opposition claims belonged to foreigners, as election watchdog Comfrel condemned the lack of transparency in the process.

The NEC yesterday deliberated over 16 suites of complaints, involving a total of 479 names registered on the voter list. After a marathon session, the NEC decided last night that all of the names would remain on the voter rolls.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party has argued that nearly 5,000 names belong to foreigners and should be stricken from the list, with most of those suspected of belonging to Vietnamese people.

In a decision on similar deliberations on Monday, the NEC elected to keep all 167 of the reviewed disputed names on the list, prompting Comfrel to issue a statement yesterday, saying the complaints were dealt with too swiftly and without requiring defendants to appear and prove their citizenship.

“Most of the commune councils have not invited the defendants to the interrogation in the final meeting, and the defendants were not asked about the legal documents of granting the Khmer citizenship besides the national identity cards,” the Comfrel statement reads.

Comfrel executive director Koul Panha reiterated that the NEC should cross-check identity cards with the Ministry of Interior database, but added that the irregularities on the electoral roll appeared to be minor.

“The solution to the complaints . . . showed that in the commune and the NEC, there is no transparent process for the plaintiff to rely on, especially when the commune has not interrogated or found out more evidence,” he said.

Sam Kutheamy, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, criticised the lack of time for each name to be verified.

“If there are 37 accused people, for example, the NEC should invite those involved people one by one to give testimony and show the evidence to prove that they are Cambodian; do not pick only three,” he said.

“For each complaint, I could see the solution lasting only 10 to 20 minutes and it is very fast in a short time.”

Cheav Nam, of Chbar Ampov district, was one of only a handful of defendants present to dispute the claim he was Vietnamese yesterday, presenting his family records and three forms of identity.

Nam said he was not upset by the accusation, but he asked the CNRP to have sufficient evidence before placing the burden on the people they accused.

“I support launching the complaints to erase the name of Vietnamese people from the voting list since there are many Vietnamese living in my district,” Nam said.

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