The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the National Police have dismissed complaints by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that high-ranking members of the armed forces campaigned for it before and during the election period – a violation of the Cambodian constitution.
They said the complaints came from those who failed to understand the Kingdom’s laws.
Spokesmen for the CPP and the National Police said while members of the security forces are not permitted by law to take part in election campaigning for any party during their working hours, the law still allows them to exercise their political rights.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said: “The person claiming himself as Human Rights Watch does not know Cambodian law and so has [criticised] incorrectly.
“We do not pay attention to such criticism and attacks on the government and ruling party, because it is incorrect. We believe the people will see who insults who and who attacks who wrongly, and so it will not influence opinion.”
National Police spokesman Kiet Chantharith said government officials clearly understand the law and will act according to it.
“They [campaign] outside their working hours. They ask for a day off from their institution, so nothing is wrong, and they do not wear their uniforms at rallies,” he said.
HRW claimed on Thursday that high-ranking members of the security forces, including the military and the police, were actively campaigning for the CPP during the election period, in breach of the Cambodian Constitution, which requires them to remain neutral.
The report released by HRW on Thursday alleges senior officials of Cambodia’s security forces have endorsed caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen and his CPP at numerous public rallies and other events. It did not state if the officials were in uniform.
Article 9 of the Law on the General Statute of Military Personnel of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces states: “Military personnel shall be neutral in the exercise of their functions and may not use either their title or State apparatus for profit or for political action.”
Human Rights Watch Asian division executive director Brad Adams earlier said: “To win a sham election, it is not enough for the ruling party to ban the opposition, control all the election institutions and maintain a chokehold on the media.
“Apparently the CPP thinks it also needs to deploy some of the country’s most feared generals to campaign and intimidate people into going to the polls.”
Citing media reports, HRW claimed that since the official campaign period began on July 7, General Sao Sokha, acting supreme commander of the military, while campaigning for the CPP, told attendees on July 8 at a pagoda in Kandal province to vote for the CPP.
“Under the wise leadership of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, our country has developed in every area, including roads, bridges, canals, schools and hospitals . . .,” he is claimed to have said.
General Hing Bun Heang also spoke to some 1,000 teachers at a CPP rally on July 8, and is claimed to have said: “The whole nation’s development and peace throughout the country is under the wise leadership of Samdech Techo Hun Sen as head of the government and president of the CPP.”
HRW alleges it has received reports of many other senior members of the security forces campaigning for the CPP before the official campaign period began on July 7, in violation of Cambodian law.
It alleged that Deputy Army Commander and Brigade 911 Commander Chap Pheakdey campaigned for the CPP in Svay Rieng province on June 17, while RCAF Deputy Supreme Commander Kun Kim championed the CPP in Oddar Meanchey province on June 23 and June 26.
HRW also claims that RCAF Supreme Commander Pol Saroeun made a campaign trip to Preah Sihanouk province on June 24 and July 1 where he introduced CPP candidates for election.
National Police Deputy Supreme Commissioner Chuon Sovan is also alleged to have led CPP campaigning in Prey Veng province’s Pea Reang district on June 16.