FIRST Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has again urged the police and army
to maintain their impartiality during scheduled general elections in 1998.
He reiterated his suggestion for his father King Norodom Sihanouk to head an independent
commission and command the armed forces and police during the electoral process.
Ranariddh invited representatives of foreign governments and NGOs to help monitor
"Each step of preparations must be free from intimidation, force and from all
acts of violence," Ranariddh said in a May 23 speech to a Phnom Penh seminar
marking the third anniversary of the United Nations-organized 1993 elections.
"All political parties must show their sincere honesty and do their best to
create opportunities to allow our national elections to maintain neutrality and fairness."
Ranariddh supported the formation of a new coalition government after the next elections,
but stressed that the election result must be respected and accepted by all parties.
After Funcinpec won more votes in the 1993 election, the Cambodian People's Party
(CPP) launched a short-lived secession of several provinces. It ended when, after
negotiations, Funcinpec agreed to accept CPP into a coalition.
In recent public speeches, CPP's co-Prime Minister Hun Sen has revived his complaints
about election irregularities in the 1993 election.
Ranariddh's speech - at a seminar organized by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections
(COFFEL), made up of NGOs - came amid growing concerns that the electoral process
is falling behind timing.
Kassie Neou, president of the Cambodian Institute of Human Rights, believed the government
has the political will to hold the elections but "logistically it needs more
assistance from the international community".
He said that (COFFEL) was ready to launch a nationwide voter education program but
lacked funds to run it.
"Unavoidably, they [the foreign community] must assist in funding...NGOs to
educate people about their rights and duty as citizens in elections and the duty
of armed forces and police in providing security" Kassie said.
"We want them to make commitment - the sooner the better."
"They cannot release their hand now...they need to nurture this [democracy]
all the way through till 1998," he said.