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PM invites foreign election monitors

PM invites foreign election monitors

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

new elections.

"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.

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