Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blasted election watchdog Comfrel for “provoking chaos” with its pre-election announcement that the indelible voter ink could be easily removed.
Just one day before the July 28 vote, Comfrel released a video showing the ink being removed with an unnamed liquid and urged voters to keep an eye out for double votes.
Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly, Hun Sen said the NGO deserved a share of moral responsibility for some of the problems that occurred on election day.
“Comfrel stirred chaos just a few hours before the vote [by saying] the black ink can be cleaned off. So Comfrel has to understand – what is the responsibility of a person who causes chaos a few hours before the election when serving as an NGO monitoring the election? They should apologise to the nation for provoking chaos,” he said.
“I think, at least, they have a moral responsibility, because [their claim] is a huge problem.”
While Comfrel was the first to point out the delibility of the ink, hundreds of voters followed suit on election day, posting to Facebook numerous videos and setting up removal stations outside polling sites. The government, in spite of the ample evidence to the contrary, has continued to maintain the ink could not be washed off.
Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, yesterday said that if anything, the group ensured a slightly more legitimate and transparent election.
“Our work is an official fact,” he said, adding that staff members tested the ink at the request of the National Election Committee, which had called on NGOs and journalists to verify that the ink could not be scrubbed off. The ink test, he continued, came amid concerns over 1.7 million temporary identification forms, and a raft of voter list problems that could easily allow double votes.
“We have to be transparent about [ink removal], otherwise, people will complain after the election.”