It is incredible that the National Election Committee (NEC) openly relinquishes its
responsibility so unceremoniously. According to its vice-chairman, Mr Kassie Neou,
"the only way (to ensure the Cambodian election process from start to finish
is fair, and is seen to be fair) is by complete observation by trained and trusted
independent monitors" (PPP 10/14).
He goes on to suggest that civil society needs at least 24,800 volunteers, and explains
how they can do the job properly. It seems the NEC is so concerned about others'
jobs that it forgets to do its own.
Dependence on civil society necessarily implies the NEC is not capable, or has no
intention, of conducting free and fair elections. One would like to entertain an
idea that more than just organising elections, the NEC is obliged to do it impartially,
so that any unavoidable violence would be limited to that of the British experience
Mr Kassie Neou quotes in his statement. It is inconceivable that the NEC has all
but declared it has no intention of upholding impartiality, and simultaneously expects
others to provide fairness and propriety in the election process.
The NEC's conduct so far for the upcoming commune elections is far from impressive.
First, the vice chairman is delighted that the NEC has formed the Commune Election
NGO Co-ordination Committee, even though it excludes some well known independent
NGOs, namely, COFFEL, COMFREL, and NIFFEC. Why these experienced election observing
organisations are excluded from the committee can only be explained by the fact that
the NEC has no intention of being impartial. It seems the real scheme is to get the
elections the ruling party cannot win out of the way as soon as possible with minimum
fuss, and simultaneously leaves the burden of securing free and fair election process
to someone else.
Second, the NEC expects everyone, besides itself and the government, to fund the
election observers whose number could exceed 24,800 people for what the NEC vice-chairman
calls "free and fair elections without violence".
The likelihood is that those NGOs can not secure such huge resources, and thus become
perfect scapegoats for the elections that can hardly be free and fair, and for resultant
But again, the main questions are: would the NEC really need so many observers if
it conducted itself with impartiality beyond reproach by standing up to the ruling
party? Would any type of violence then be necessary if the ruling party believed
it could win freely and fairly?
A few months ago the two ruling parties issued a joint communique promising a safe
elections. It is mind boggling to see that it was necessary for political parties
to issue such statement. One would like to assume it is the responsibility of the
NEC and the government, not political parties, to take appropriate measures to ensure
the Cambodian people can participate in any election safely.
The blatant display of collective irresponsibility on the part of the Cambodian authorities
is astounding. And to complement that sorry state, some naive people are hoping that
the elections, in which the senior ruling party with guns and bullets can only lose,
are to be fair and free of violence.
- Ung Bun-Ang, The SRP Australia-New Zealand Region.