The National Election Committee (NEC) is calling for “special guests” consisting of foreign delegates to observe the July 29 national elections to supplement local and international observers and party agents.
However, an election expert said there is no provision in the law that allows the NEC to make such a request.
A letter signed by NEC president Sik Bun Hok on Wednesday said it is allowing “special guests” to observe the election via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The “special guests” will be accompanied by interpreters and be issued identity cards by the election committee.
However, it said the special guests will not be granted the same status as formal election observers.
“When they come to see at polling and ballot counting stations, special guests are not required to sign in or out,” Article 4 of the latter said.
The NEC called on security details and election committee officials at all levels to “cooperate and facilitate” with the special guests to make the process of observing the election as smooth as possible.
NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea on Thursday said while the law that established the committee makes no mention of allowing “special guests” to observe the election, the NEC has every right to do so.
“They are foreign delegates, and they want to ‘see’ the election. Why wouldn’t we allow them?” he asked.
Puthea said a “special guest” is different from an “international observer”. For one, special guests have no right to report on the election or file a complaint.
He compared their status to executives from the Indian company that sold the NEC the ink that will be used on July 29.
“[Special guests] are coming just to look but they are not observers. It is like the officials from the Indian company who flew to Cambodia to test the ink. They do not care who wins or loses. They just care about their ink,” Puthea said.
He said so far no special guest has registered, but the NEC will continue to urge foreign delegates to come.
Election expert Yoeurng Sotheara, a former official with the Committee For Free And Fair Elections in Cambodia, said Article 42 of the Law on Organisation and Functioning of the NEC, which enumerates the duties and powers of the committee, does not stipulate it can make special decisions in this manner.
He said if NEC oversteps its powers and the law vested in it and by doing so has gone beyond “its motto of ‘Independent, Neutrality, Truthfulness, Justice and Transparency’”.