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NEC ‘code’ should not be criminalised: NGOs

Koul Panha, head of election monitor Comfrel, talks during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2014.
Koul Panha, head of election monitor Comfrel, talks during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2014. Pha Lina

NEC ‘code’ should not be criminalised: NGOs

The Electoral Reform Alliance, a coalition of election watchdog NGOs, has called on the National Election Committee to remove punitive measures from its code of ethics ahead of the commune and national elections.

Koul Panha, head of Comfrel, one of the 20 NGOs in the coalition, said the codes of ethics for five groups – election officers, parties, armed forces, observers, and the press – were supposed to be a procedural guide on roles and duties, and not legally binding with fines or jail time.

The code mimics much of Cambodia’s law on elections, which includes a controversial ban on “insulting” politicians and a clause by which entire political parties can be held accountable for the actions of one member.

“We ask you to remove the articles on punishment on the five codes of ethics, because codes of ethics are not on a par with laws and regulation . . . which force one to respect and follow,” the letter read.

The letter, dated July 17, called for lighter measures to be introduced if the code was broken, including education, warnings or termination of duties.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said he planned to have a meeting to discuss the group’s recommendations next week.

The letter also calls on the NEC to extend the deadline for groups to provide feedback until the end of the month, saying they received notice on July 13 and needed more time to review and provide recommendations.

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