The NEC criticised two NGOs on Thursday, in a pre-emptive move in case they issue statements about the upcoming national elections without sending observers, even while one of the accused organisations vowed to send unofficial monitors.
Addressing stakeholders at a press conference, NEC officials called out Comfrel and Nicfec, two entities whose missions relate to free and fair elections, over their refusal to send official monitors to observe voting.
Nicfec on Wednesday joined Comfrel in deciding not to register poll observers, citing a lack of volunteers resulting from, they say, fear of being accused of being part of a colour revolution or rebel groups.
The NEC’s spokesperson questioned any future statements from Comfrel or Nicfec saying, “if they do not go to observe the election, what can they put in their statement?”
He added that the absence of observers from the two watchdogs would not have any effect on the election or other NEC operations.
“Many organisations will be sending thousands of people,” Puthea said. “Higher Education Community alone, for example, said it will send its observers to all the polling places, which cost them about $200,000.”
Sam Kuntheamy, director of Nicfec, said although his NGO will not send observers to the election, it would keep observing it unofficially and educate people about the election.
“But we will not release any report or assessment,” he said, adding he would send informal observers to about 100 polling places.
“If they [observers] notice any irregularity during the campaign, we will report to the NEC to take action.”
Kuntheamy said he was not worried about his organisation breaking the law, as it was working on educating the Cambodian people about the election as well as training the staff of other organisations in proper observation.
Comfrel officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Kuntheamy said Comfrel’s planning is “similar” to that of his organisation.
Kieu Sopheak, spokesperson from the Ministry of Interior, said his ministry would cooperate with NEC to take action if NGOs put out misinformed statements.
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is currently the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Movement, responded to the statements by echoing the concerns of United Nations Special Rapporteur to Cambodia Rhona Smith: “No election can be genuine if the main opposition party is barred from taking part.”