Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An NGO with suspect ties offers wide praise

An NGO with suspect ties offers wide praise

An NGO with suspect ties offers wide praise

The Cambodian Democratic Student Intellectual Federation, a self-described “non-governmental and politically impartial organisation”, has declared the elections an unqualified success.

“Having directly observed the electoral process in all 24 municipality [sic] and provinces, CDSIF … affirms that this general election was smoothly, properly, transparently, freely and fairly organised,” it said in a widely disseminated statement.

However, CDSIF – which was officially registered as an observer with the National Election Committee – is a self-professed member of the umbrella group Justice Eyes. In 2003, that group was implicated in a government plan to seed the field of monitors with pro-CPP lackeys whose express purpose was to undermine assessments by other observers deemed unfriendly to the government.

According to a set of handwritten notes taken by an attendee of a meeting at Hun Sen’s Takhmao residence and obtained by the Post in 2003, some 76 Justice Eyes NGOs were told by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself that “everyone needs to accept the results of the election”.

One source, who declined to be named for fear of being targeted, reported being told at the time by three different attendees that the CPP had said: “If we win by the law, then we win. If we lose by the law, we must still win.”

The NEC’s deputy director of the Legal Services and Dispute Department, Ker Rith, said yesterday that the election body hadn’t explored CDSIF’s affiliations, and went so far as to say that many biased groups had been registered as observers.

“We did not concentrate on whether this group of NGOs has any political affiliation with any party,” he said. “Based on my observation, there are many NGOs registered as observers but who have political ties with political parties.”

However, Koul Panha, executive director of the election watchdog Comfrel, said yesterday that such partiality was counter to the NEC’s own guidelines.

“According to the [NEC] code of conduct, they should be non-partisan, non-affiliated. But this was not implemented,” he said.

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