The National Election Committee (NEC) has rapped the Provincial Election Committee (PEC) for going against the Election Law to allow a polls watchdog to send volunteers to monitor the political situation during the election period.
But a Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel) official claimed that, after signing-up 300 volunteers, they were allowed to monitor the election as long as its staff did not step inside polling stations.
The NEC on Saturday sent a letter to the PEC on the deployment of Comfrel’s election monitors, saying it went against Article 10, Section 3.3 of Chapter 3 of the Election Law which covers election procedures.
Article 10 requires civil societies, NGOs, and associations to be registered before they can engage in election monitoring.
The NEC letter dated June 30 did not specify what action would be taken if Comfrel continued to send observers, but it said: “The NEC considers that such election monitoring is not allowed or acknowledged.”
Its spokesperson Hang Puthea confirmed on Sunday that the letter was sent to the PEC after Comfrel sent letters to the local body about deploying its election monitors, but did not send a similar letter to its national counterpart.
“Comfrel and other NGOs have to put in requests to the NEC. But a few days ago, Comfrel sent letters to the PEC instead. The PEC does not have the authority to allow it to monitor the election."
“The subsequent letter from the NEC was a reminder to all NGOs to respect the law because everything must be compliant with the law."
“If it doesn’t get permission and what it does violates the law and affects the election process, then the Election Law will be brought into action,” Puthea said.
In May, election watchdogs Comfrel and the Neutral And Impartial Committee For Free And Fair Elections decided not to join the election monitoring.
Their decision, they said, was made because of their inability to sign-up volunteers who feared being accused of taking part in a “colour revolution” or being a part of a “rebel” group.
Comfrel official Korng Savang said on Sunday that it had managed to enlist 300 volunteers who had already begun monitoring the political situation in 300 communes across the country and that it had informed the local authorities in their target areas.
He said such activities weren’t against the law as long as their monitors didn’t step inside actual voting stations but merely oversaw the overall situation from outside.
He said NGOs and civil societies can do this if they were officially registered with the Ministry of Interior and informed the relevant authorities before engaging in such monitoring, both of which Comfrel has done.
“On the general situation regarding the people, or related to the political situation, it is a normal activity not restricted to the election,” he said.
However, Puthea said Comfrel had also requested to interview people who intend to vote.
“Conducting such interviews ... it looks like they are doing a survey. According to the law, such surveys must end seven days before election day. If [Comfrel] were to conduct such activities between 28 June and 30 August then it would be contravening the law,” Puthea said.