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Opposition NEC members ‘concerned’

Rong Chhun arrives at court in 2014 to face questioning about his alleged involvement in the Veng Sreng riots.
Rong Chhun arrives at court in 2014 to face questioning about his alleged involvement in the Veng Sreng riots. Heng Chivoan

Opposition NEC members ‘concerned’

Two CNRP appointees to the National Election Committee said yesterday they fear legal action against two of the body’s non-CPP-aligned personnel will further delay already time-pressed election preparations.

Former Supreme Court prosecutor Hing Thirith and retired civil servant Te Manirong – both NEC members selected by the opposition – said the prosecution of their fellow CNRP-appointed committee member Rong Chhun and NEC deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya would create further setbacks for the body.

“We are concerned if we lose people, we will lack a quorum which will make it difficult for the process,” said Thirith. “We don’t want this to happen. We don’t want the National Assembly go through the difficult process of selecting a new member.”

Manirong agreed. “It could impact our work, this will be unavoidable if there is this issue,” she said.

Chhun, a former unionist, faces prosecution for his alleged role in 2014 protests during which five people were shot dead by security forces. Chakrya, a former official for rights group Adhoc, has been charged alongside six other people for allegedly conspiring to cover up an affair by CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha.

The opposition party says the suits are part of strong-arm efforts by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to gain an advantage ahead of the coming elections.

Thirth and Manirong both declined yesterday to discuss any political aspects of the cases against their colleagues.

“We can only stand and watch it,” Thirith said.

“We hope for a peaceful solution,” said Manirong.

The NEC was overhauled and made bipartisan last year as part of election reforms prompted by the disputed 2013 election.

The committee – comprising four people appointed by the CPP and four by the CNRP, and neutral member Hang Puthea – is currently overseeing the creation of new digital voter lists designed to stop election fraud, as irregularities have marred previous ballots.

Reached yesterday, Puthea, a former election monitor, declined to discuss whether the cases against NEC members amounted to political pressure, which would contravene laws stating commissioners should remain free from fear and intimidation.

“This is an issue for the politicians to analyse and solve,” Puthea said, adding that the 2017 commune election was still on track despite several delays of the voter registration process.

The EU has pledged €10 million (about $11.2 million) to fund election preparations, with the cash contingent on “positive political developments”, according to the agreement.

But an EU official said yesterday the onus was on the NEC to respond to its members’ legal woes and take appropriate measures to remain “independent and balanced” as per the 2014 agreement.

“We are currently awaiting the reaction of the NEC itself,” said the EU’s chargé d’affaires Alain Vandersmissen.

Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Yuji Kumamaru, whose country is also supporting the NEC, said the embassy was “following the case very closely”.

“We would like the [NEC] independent and impartial,” Kumamaru said, via email.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, rejected suggestions of political interference and insisted the NEC would stay on track.

“There will be no faltering of the NEC.”

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