Funcinpec has demanded that the NEC suspend elections in 16 communes where no party
has fielded candidates against the incumbent CPP. At a press conference January 17,
the man in charge of Funcinpec's election committee, Nhek Bun Chhay, said the party
would refuse to accept the result of any - i.e. CPP - candidates winning
unopposed in communes.
The NEC reversed January 15 its original decision forbidding the broadcast of election-related
roundtable discussions. The change of heart follows strong criticism from both the
national and international communities, particularly US Ambassador Kent Weidemann.
The NEC had vetoed at least 15 educational programs prepared by NGOs that explained
the issues and procedures of the February 3 commune elections. Its reasoning was
that some political parties were using the platform to make misleading claims about
The first-ever election debates, however, will remain dropped for what the NEC said
was an absence of any official policy on the subject. The organizers - the Khmer
Institute of Democracy and the National Democratic Institute - were free to
air them on private TV or radio channels, not the public ones.
The election observation body Comfrel has claimed that a misinterpretation of certain
provisions of the commune election law by the NEC's provincial and communal counterparts
was causing problems.
According to provisions 8.3 and 8.15 of the law, the political parties and their
candidates can use public places for their campaigning events with prior permission
from the local administration. A copy of this permission was to be sent to the provincial
or commune election commissions (PECs and CECs) for information purposes only. Private
property could also be used provided the PEC and CEC were informed in advance about
However, Comfrel said the provisions were being misinterpreted by the PEC and CEC
officials, who had demanded that political parties and their candidates apply for
permission from them before launching their campaign events on both public and private
"As the campaigning begins, its is important that the NEC clarify these provisions
to all concerned," the organization said.
Comfrel also strongly criticized the NEC for its guidelines issued to PECs and CECs
instructing them to monitor voter education materials before granting permission
for their distribution.
Questioning the competence of PEC and CEC officials to do so, Comfrel said in a statement
it had faced "significant difficulties" in Sihanoukville and the remote
northern region of Rattanakiri, where local authorities blocked the distribution
of Comfrel posters showing the negative impact of vote buying.
"[They] demanded that we seek permission for all future distribution of election
education materials," the body said, adding that the Sihanoukville PEC chief
had even rejected distribution of the Khmer version of The Mirror bulletin put out
by the Open Forum that was licensed by the Ministry of Interior. He had demanded
to check the bulletin, which contains a summary of news coverage in the Khmer media,
before he would allow it to be distributed.
A 49-year-old soldier in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province had to change
his name in order to register as a commune candidate for the SRP after his commander
reportedly issued orders banning soldiers from associating in any way with the opposition
Sam Rainsy alleged that the chief of Tuol Sala village, Van, warned the man that
once the party was routed in the elections "you will be chased out of the village".
The soldier, Rainsy said, had also not received his salary since September last year.