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Rong Chhun ready to scrap

Unionist Rong Chhun enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning over claims of incitement on January 14, 2014
Unionist Rong Chhun enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning over claims of incitement on January 14, 2014. Heng Chivoan

Rong Chhun ready to scrap

Newly appointed election monitor Rong Chhun has come out swinging ahead of today’s official swearing in of the nine new National Election Committee members, saying he is “sharpening his spurs” for a potential showdown.

The longtime president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association yesterday said that he would not follow the lead of previous under-the-radar NEC appointees, but would instead voice his concerns to the media whenever possible.

“I don’t mind being blamed by the [political] leaders [for speaking out], but I don’t want journalists to blame me for being quiet,” he said. “I have already sharpened my spurs to fight. If the leaders are not happy with me they can propose to withdraw my candidature.

“I’m going to be a fighting cock, not a cooked chicken, so I must speak out in the national interest.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the National Assembly vote approving the nine new NEC members on Friday, hailing the accord as a “historic” moment for Cambodia and a Khmer New Year “gift” to the people.

In previous manifestations, the NEC members – even those picked by the opposition – were reluctant to air their views or speak out when they saw wrongdoing, so as the committee is supposedly independent, Chhun’s stance was “the very definition” of how NEC members should behave, Ou Virak, an independent political analyst, said yesterday.

“If the members are expected to behave independently, this is the very definition of independence,” he said.

“Even the members from the SRP [Sam Rainsy Party] in the past didn’t do a single thing. They were complicit in the whole problem with the election.”

While a more proactive and transparent approach would be welcome, Virak added that this must be tempered with fairness.

“I think [Chhun’s] a man on a mission, and that’s a good sign. The only advice I have is that he should be principled, and if there are positive things, he should also speak to them as well.”

Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman and lawmaker, dismissed suggestions that a hard-line stance by one of the party’s candidates on the NEC could cause problems in the future.

CNRP president Rainsy said “it’s just a way of speaking. He is just sharpening his conscience and his technical skills derived from his teaching experience.”

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