Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Election monitors get warning over law on neutrality

Election monitors get warning over law on neutrality

Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks about the recent commune elections during a June meeting of the ‘Situation Room’.
Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks about the recent commune elections during a June meeting of the ‘Situation Room’. Pha Lina

Election monitors get warning over law on neutrality

The Ministry of Interior has issued a warning to election watchdogs Comfrel and Nicfec, ordering them to halt their activities that allegedly violate their NGO obligation of neutrality.

In letters circulated late yesterday and signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, the NGOs were informed they had broken Article 24 of the NGO Law, which requires organisations to “maintain their neutrality towards political parties” in Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week accused the group known as the “Situation Room” – an election monitoring coalition of NGOs including Comfrel and Nicfec – of “dirtying the election results” when it suggested the oppressive political climate ahead of last month’s commune poll meant the elections were not completely free and fair.

Following the Prime Minister’s tirade, the Interior Ministry last week confirmed it had placed the Situation Room under investigation on the premise that it was not properly registered with the government, despite it being a temporary coalition of NGOs, not a new entity.

Under the controversial and heavily criticised Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO), if the groups are “non-compliant” with the ministry’s warning, it can suspend their activities for three months and even remove them from the government’s register.

Nicfec Executive Director Sam Kuntheamy stressed the Situation Room did not take sides during its reporting on the June 4 commune elections.

“We are independent election monitors – we are neutral, we are not biased,” he said.

He said the Situation Room had already wrapped up its activities on June 24, but he feared there may be implications for monitoring the upcoming national poll next year.

“From the warning letter, they don’t want us to form the Situation Room for upcoming elections, that’s what I understand,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen