Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Letter attacks election monitor after RFA talk

Letter attacks election monitor after RFA talk

Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks at a press conference following the 2017 commune elections. The election monitor received criticism from local media for questioning the fairness and competitiveness of the upcoming elections.
Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks at a press conference following the 2017 commune elections. The election monitor received criticism from local media for questioning the fairness and competitiveness of the upcoming elections. Pha Lina

Letter attacks election monitor after RFA talk

Local media outlets have attacked election monitor Koul Panha by publishing a letter to the editor claiming he had attempted to cause chaos during the 2013 and 2017 elections and was attempting to do so again when he spoke to Radio Free Asia last week on the legitimacy of the upcoming July ballot.

Panha, who heads local election monitor Comfrel and is the chairperson of regional group Anfrel, spoke to RFA on Thursday night, asserting the July national elections lacked fairness and noting international groups had said the CNRP’s participation was needed to have a legitimate election. The legitimacy of the upcoming poll has been questioned since the forced dissolution of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s only viable competitor, the CNRP, and the arrest of its leader.

While not clarifying which organisation he was speaking for, Panha said a determination would be made in the next few weeks as to whether to send election monitors.

“We will see whether there is a fair competition and that the process ensures competition. We will see and decide on this matter,” he said.

However, government mouthpiece Fresh News and local outlet Swift News published a letter from a “Pol Peanrin” claiming that Panha was looking to disrupt the upcoming elections and his selection to the Anfrel board was a reward for disrupting past electoral processes.

“Anfrel will hold a meeting in Bangkok in April to organise an ill-intentioned plan to defame the elections and Cambodia. And Panha will try to make changes to the current National Election Committee,” the letter reads.

Comfrel’s monitoring coordinator, Korn Savang, did not comment on Panha’s remarks, saying they were his opinions, but rejected accusations of misconduct by the election monitoring NGO in past elections.

“If we see something which is technically not in accordance with rights and freedom, are we to just say that is okay? That is not possible,” he said, adding that the NGO functioned in a nonpartisan manner during elections.

However, Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan claimed Panha was biased towards the opposition and had created the NGO election monitoring coalition the “Situation Room” to support the CNRP. The coalition has come under heavy fire in the past for its criticism of the NEC and irregularities in the 2013 elections.

NEC spokesman Dim Sovannarom said the body would release a statement on Monday, addressing the issue, but noted it was required that election monitors remain neutral.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom’s domestic milk still cannot compete with imports

    Price competition and a lack of confidence by consumers are the main reasons the dairy market cannot compete with imports, said domestic milk producers. The large displays of imported fresh milk at the Kingdom’s supermarkets present a cumbersome obstacle for local producers, they said.

  • ‘Pesticide-laden cucumbers’ kill two, poison 150 in Banteay Meanchey

    At least two youths have died and 243 others are being treated for vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, dizziness and muscle weakness after they ate cucumbers suspected to consist of pesticides. The incident happened on Saturday, said Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Ath Khem. He told The

  • Three dead, 13 injured in collapse at Siem Reap pagoda

    At least three people were killed and more than 10 others injured on Monday after a dining hall under construction collapsed at Prasat Kokchak pagoda in Kokchak commune, Siem Reap province. Provincial police chief Tith Narong said Military Police, soldiers and local volunteers had successfully recovered 16

  • China Unicom enters Cambodia

    China Unicom, the country’s largest telecoms operator, has expanded into Cambodia to build optical telecommunication pathways in the Kingdom as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Hong Kong-listed company officially opened its China Unicom (Cambodia) subsidiary on Monday to become the

  • PP-SHV Expressway on track for completion in early 2023

    The construction of the $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which broke ground at the end of March, is on track to be completed by early 2023, Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Vasim Sorya said on Monday. The 190km high-speed highway linking the capital to the

  • Forest Harmony’s $18M luxury villas break ground in Kampot

    Local and French joint-venture Forest Harmony has broken ground on its $18 million “second-home” Luxury Holiday Villas project in Kampot province. Century 21 Mekong CEO and local shareholder of the project Chrek Soknim told The Post that the project will comprise 90 villa units covering 18ha on a 97