Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Deputy General Secretary of NEC, Sokolak Tipor.
Cambodia's main opposition party has slammed the National Election Committee for interfering in its election campaign and taking voting decisions away from the voters, party officials said yesterday.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party yesterday sent a letter to the NEC, accusing it of editing out important parts – including images of a woman being beaten by police during an eviction – of two campaign videos that were aired by state-run National Television Kampuchea (TVK) on Tuesday.
“The Sam Rainsy Party is very shocked and finds it deeply regrettable that the NEC has cut out pictures and words from the SRP campaign video without a discussion beforehand,” SRP’s letter to the NEC said.
“The NEC shows that it is biased and willing to cover up the cruelty of the ruling party.”
Under electoral campaign rules, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party were both allocated two 30-minute slots on TVK on Tuesday to campaign for votes in the upcoming Senate elections to be held on January 29.
However, the SRP said yesterday that important campaign arguments that were critical of the current ruling party were cut from their campaign videos without any correspondence from the NEC.
“It is a mistake of the NEC to play a role that does not comply with the law and the rights of political parties,” Kuoy Bunroeun, deputy secretary-general of SRP told the Post yesterday, adding the political party had found dealings with the NEC to be “challenging”.
“The NEC should keep the citizens as owners of the election and let them do the judging of political parties’ propaganda,” Kuoy Bunroeun said.
Kuoy Bunroeun, who is also responsible for election affairs of the SRP, said the NEC edited out of the SRP’s campaign video a segment on border issues with Vietnam, including a statement that Koh Tral (Phu Quoc island in Vietnamese) rightfully belonged to Cambodia.
He said the second edit was of “human rights abuses of the ruling party”, including removal of scenes from Boeung Kak lake protests, a shot of a woman being beaten by police with batons and other scenes of violent land evictions and unanswered pleas of villagers for government intervention.
Kuoy Bunroeun said the SRP had sent the campaign videos to the NEC on December 31, and had received no feedback from the election commission.
“Usually the NEC would inform first, but this is very strange – they cut out spots, causing the loss of meaning,” he said.
NEC’s equity program coordinator Sokolak Tipor said any editing of the campaign videos by NEC was normal procedure for vetting election propaganda.
“Any propaganda which is not true or is insulting or has a meaning that is incitement and detrimental to society will be cut out,” Sokolak Tipor said.
“The images we cut from the SRP video were of violence and blood and naked bodies, which would make viewers feel afraid.”
Sokolak Tipor told the Post only “about one minute” of footage was cut from the SRP video, and was only cut because it was insulting and untrue.
“They use the words ‘Vietnam’s slave’ and say ‘Vietnamese soldiers occupy Cambodian land almost completely’ – these words are not true.”
Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free & Fair Elections in Cambodia executive director Keo Sarith said that regardless of right or wrong, the NEC should have discussed its issues with a political party’s campaign video with that party first, before editing it.
“The action [of editing without prior discussion] can affect the rights of the voters and the rights of each party to spread propaganda.”