The National Election Committee (NEC) instructed all electoral commissions and relevant authorities to strengthen security and maintain public order at polling and ballot counting stations during the upcoming commune council elections.

The directive, signed by NEC chairman Prach Chan on May 14, says the guidelines to improve security are to ensure that the elections run smoothly.

The directive states that those eligible to enter polling stations include NEC-appointed election officials, political party agents with a list of nominated and authorised candidates, and observers and journalists who are accredited by the NEC.

If necessary, the NEC chairman may make a request to allow additional people, for the purposes of security and/or rescue.

If they do not have a letter from the NEC, journalists may only enter a polling station for the purpose of voting. People must vote at the polling station where their names are registered. Under article 116 of the law on commune elections, people with a disability may be accompanied but their guardian must abide by the law.

“Those who breach these regulations shall be punished according to Article 171 of the law, with a fine of between five and 20 million riel [$1,250 and $5,000]. All commissions must cooperate with local election security forces and their respective polling stations to ensure security, safety, public order and administer the election process and ballot counting,” the NEC added.

Sam Sokuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), told The Post on May 18 that the issuance of the guidelines was a very good way to make the election and ballot counting process smoother. In order to maintain security and public order, there is a committee led by the chief of the National Police, he added.

“I think the NEC’s preparation for this year’s elections is thorough enough for the public and [authorities]. Anyone who enters a polling station or ballot counting station without the authorisation will be fined, in accordance with the rules of the NEC,” he said.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on May 18 that generally, before, during and after elections, the NEC always beefed up security. Tougher safety measures will be in place from May 21, he added.

“Election [commissions] must cooperate with local authorities – at the municipal, provincial, district and commune levels – to jointly organise regular meetings to resolve all issues. This close cooperation will improve social order and prevent any possible crimes,” he said.

There are more than 9.2 million voters registered on the commune election list, including 87.84 per cent of the population that is over 18 years of age. There are 23,602 polling stations in 1,652 communes across the country.