Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kek’s NEC eligibility in doubt

Kek’s NEC eligibility in doubt

Licadho president Pung Chhiv Kek talks at a press conference in July at a Licadho office in regards to the ninth seat on the NEC
Licadho president Pung Chhiv Kek talks at a press conference in July at a Licadho office in regards to the ninth seat on the NEC. Heng Chivoan

Kek’s NEC eligibility in doubt

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday agreed that no member of an overhauled National Election Committee could have multiple nationalities, it remains unclear whether rights activist and triple national Pung Chhiv Kek is out of the running for the only bipartisan position.

Rainsy said in an email yesterday that despite his party’s acquiescence, he believed “there will be no change” on Kek as both parties’ favoured candidate to take the ninth and final spot on an NEC otherwise made up of political appointees.

The Licadho president will be allowed to join the NEC if she “suspends” her French and Canadian citizenships while sitting on the committee, a vague solution that the opposition has painted as a compromise from Hun Sen.

While neither side has outlined any legal procedure for how a temporary renouncement of citizenship could work, they continued to advance this argument yesterday after a final meeting between working groups drafting a new NEC law.

“In spirit, we are still thinking about [Pung Chhiv Kek], but we must also look into the [criteria set] by our law,” said Kuoy Bunroeun, the opposition CNRP’s top negotiator. “Provided that [she] fulfils [the role] according to the legal conditions, we can accept [her].”

CPP working group head Bin Chhin said a candidate would be chosen after the NEC law is passed, which both parties have agreed will happen before the end of February.

“[We] have not eyed anyone yet, because the law is not yet issued,” Chhin said, despite Hun Sen agreeing in July that Kek could take the position.

Kek has repeatedly declined to address her candidacy. But Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at Licadho, said Kek was not troubled by the new restriction and was still waiting for demands made months ago to be met.

“She has asked for conditions, that the NEC is independent, members have [parliamentary-style] immunity, the right to choose staff autonomously, the right to autonomously control its budget. If this is all OK, she will agree, if not, she will decline,” he said.

Sam Ath said he could not comment on whether Kek would give up her other nationalities.

“She’s Cambodian, so if they really need her, they will let her keep [her other citizenships].”

Koul Panha, the head of elections watchdog Comfrel, who has been floated as an alternative candidate, said he would still consider it. But, he added, he supported Kek’s candidacy and lambasted the nationality restriction.

“There is no justification for this.… I think these two parties are not taking responsibility.”

Separately yesterday, Rainsy released a statement seeking to justify his latest political deal with Hun Sen, which has been criticised by some observers as horse trading for short-term political goals. Rainsy said the CNRP’s real intention was “to lay the foundation for Cambodia’s democratic future”.

“What the CNRP has obtained represents significant strides towards democracy for a country which has only recently emerged from a long period of authoritarianism,” he said, citing the new NEC, opposition TV and radio licences, and his forthcoming recognition as minority leader in parliament.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Phnom Penh condo market loses steam

    Just four new condominiums were launched for sale last year in the capital, down from 17 in 2020, according to research by CBRE Cambodia. The four developments comprised “more than 1,000” units, while the 17 in 2020 consisted of 10,866, the real estate firm reported. CBRE Cambodia categorises condos as “high-range”, “

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused