Voter rolls at several polling stations appear to have been “intentionally manipulated” in advance of the election to allow large groups of individuals to cast fraudulent ballots in communes where they were ineligible, according to a report released Saturday by rights group Licadho.
One of the incidents cited describes hundreds of university students being transported from Phnom Penh to Kandal’s Lvea Em district to vote, allegedly under the instruction of their professors, as one example of systematic voter fraud.
Another observed incident in hotly contested Kandal involved more than 100 workers from a rock quarry in Kampong Speu who were brought to a newly created polling station in Sa’ang district to vote despite not having residence there, Licadho says.
The quarry is allegedly owned by a ruling party official from Sa’ang Phnom commune.
According to the report, more than 30 per cent of names on the voter list at the new Sa’ang polling station were duplicates, compared with a nationwide rate of two per cent.
“We were expecting significant issues with the voter rolls, especially in light of earlier reports of ghost voters, drastic over-registrations and the like, but the indications of vote rigging we saw went beyond that,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge said in a statement.
“The observations detailed in this report unequivocally demonstrate the need for further in-depth investigations and additional procedures before the vote results can be finalised.”
Tep Nytha, secretary-general at the National Election Committee, said the NEC had received the report but that, whether it had evidence of malfeasance or not, “the NEC will not investigate”.
“It is their right to say what they see. The NEC receives those reports to look into which points could be useful to make changes for the next election, so we accept them. For points that we can’t accept, we just archive them,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of election watchdog Comfrel, said Licadho’s findings were “very consistent” with that of other civil society groups.
He stopped short, however, of saying such premeditated vote-rigging was widespread.
“It proves that it happened in some communes [where] there were problems of intentional manipulation, but we want to do further investigation to know the scale of the problem.”
The report also cites military units being trucked in from their bases in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces to vote en masse in newly created polling stations in Siem Reap’s Varin district.
Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said yesterday that the transportation of voters to polling stations where they are registered is fully legal.
“I just want to inform [people] that wherever you vote, you must have [identification] for elections that the NEC will allow you to vote with, and wherever you find your name, you have the right to vote there,” he said.
“For example, if a man works as a construction worker and has no time to go back to his homeland, he might register his name in the area where he works so he can vote.”
According to the Election Law, a Cambodian citizen must “have a residence” in the commune where they are going to vote.
Sin Khandy, the rector of Chenla University – the institution accused of bringing Phnom Penh students to vote in Kandal province – could not be reached for comment.
Khandy is an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, and the university, as noted by Licadho, has previously posted photos of students taking part in a protest against deputy CNRP leader Kem Sokha on its official Facebook page.
Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann welcomed the report yesterday. “[The report] reflects the reality and reflects the problems that we encountered during the election. It also adds to [our claim] that we should find justice for the people,” he said.
The report cites an election day conflict that erupted between CNRP and CPP observers in Prey Veng’s Reathor commune after opposition supporters blocked more than 400 individuals “who could not speak Khmer and appeared to be of Vietnamese ethnicity” from voting.
Although the number of temporary Identification Certificate for Election (ICE) forms issued in the commune was found to be more than 30 per cent, Licadho still calls for an investigation into the “potentially improper disenfranchisement of eligible voters based on ethnic discrimination”.
“We advise our supporters and our members not to do anything against the law and not to create violence.… We must not discriminate against anybody if they live in Cambodia legally and they have the right to vote,” Sovann said.