Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry calls for ease in vote preparation



Ministry calls for ease in vote preparation

Grassroots Democracy Party activists set up a new party billboard in Siem Reap province in December. Facebook
Grassroots Democracy Party activists set up a new party billboard in Siem Reap province in December. Facebook

Ministry calls for ease in vote preparation

The Ministry of Interior yesterday instructed provincial authorities to “make it easy” for parties preparing for the upcoming national elections, including facilitating the building of party banners and the holding of meetings – after a year in which the government systematically removed CNRP banners and often prevented gatherings before finally dissolving the party.

The letter asks officials to allow parties to open headquarters or offices, to install party signage and to not stand in the way of meetings held in the offices or the homes of supporters.

“[Make] it easy for all political parties . . . to participate in the 6th Mandate parliamentary elections taking place on 29 July 2018, [for] it to be free, fair and just and according to the democratic and multi-party principles,” the statement reads.

Despite dissolving the only legitimate competitor to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the government has defended the upcoming elections as a legitimate contest within a multi-party democracy. Much of the international community sees it otherwise, however, and both the European Union and United States have pulled their support for the National Election Committee. Before it was dissolved, the CNRP faced what it contends was constant harassment.

In one case following the arrest of party leader Kem Sokha on “treason” charges, party officials were prevented from meeting in various communes in Kampong Chhnang because they would “discuss politics”. In August, former party leader Sam Rainsy’s image had to be removed from all CNRP signs after a legal amendment forbade a party’s association with a convicted criminal.

Prior to the 2013 elections, the CNRP also complained of billboards being defaced or torn down in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces. In 2014, Rainsy was blocked by villagers and soldiers from entering Oddar Meanchey for a public forum.

Former CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua said it was always a fight with local ruling party officials to erect billboards, with some even being pulled down by the authorities. She added that party meetings were constantly monitored by the police.

“We were always photographed at each meeting,” she said. “Many times we wanted to confront the police.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the letter was simply intended to clarify rules surrounding political activity, pointing out that the new Rainsy-led Cambodia National Rescue Movement – which is not a party – is still forbidden.

“In the past we did not have such instructions, but now we have it in case they [officials] are wrong and arrest [people]. So, we are reminding them officially about the safety [rules] for the elections,” he said.

Asked if the changes had to do with concerns over the election’s legitimacy, Sopheak skirted the question, pointing to peaceful ballots in the recent commune elections and in the 2013 national elections, while highlighting election-related deaths during the 1993 United Nations-administered ballot.

Grassroots Democracy Party spokesman Sam Inn said the directive may be a result of letters they submitted to the Interior Ministry and two provincial halls complaining of billboards being removed in Battambang and Phnom Penh.

Political commentator Meas Nee said the notification was a sign of anxiety over the upcoming elections.

“When there is a strong opponent that’s made weak the [ruling] political party starts to use other strategies to attract the credibility and make sure that the elections are democratic,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Jab drive announced for two more Phnom Penh districts

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration on May 15 announced a first-dose novel-coronavirus vaccination campaign for Boeung Keng Kang and Sen Sok districts from May 18-31, and a follow-up second-shot drive from June 1-15. Twenty vaccination sites have been set up in a combined 13 communes across both