With a month to go until the July 29 national elections, Defence Minister Tea Banh on Thursday called on members of the armed forces and police to vote for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) at the upcoming polls.
“I would like to remind soldiers and their families to vote for the CPP. It will be easy to [vote] in order to maintain peace and guarantee development. The CPP is at number 20 and there are 20 political parties competing, so it will be easy to remember as the CPP sits at the bottom [of the ballot],” he said while addressing soldiers and police officers at an event in Battambang marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the military’s Region 5 area.
“Together we need to look at the importance of peace and . . . how to protect it, or else it will be in danger and cause people to die as in times past . . . At any cost, peace must be maintained and no person or group must be allowed to destroy peace. We must oppose any action from outside that tries to force the government to follow its will under the guise of democracy and human rights, and interfere with Cambodia’s sovereignty and violate universal principles.”
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Nicfec), said the National Election Committee (NEC) should take action against the minister for promoting a particular party, which goes against the political neutrality of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
“The Election Law requires the armed forces and their officials to be neutral . . . Using a state event to talk about a party in the elections is not right,” he said.
Members of the armed forces and police cannot promote political parties while in uniform, he added.
However, Hang Puthea, an NEC spokesman, said the body did not have the power to act as Banh’s statements came before the start of official election campaigning.
“The NEC’s authority starts from July 7 during the election campaigning period,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said: “[Tea Banh] is not in the wrong, because after a political party has been registered at the Ministry of Interior and the ministry has recognised it, he is allowed to conduct political activities and persuade people to vote for his party.
“Even if people are members of the military or police officers, public servants or court officials, they have not lost their political rights. They can conduct political activities for their party.”