Cambodia’s civil servants and security forces must be politically neutral, and will be if the Cambodia National Rescue Party takes power after the 2018 election, acting opposition leader Kem Sokha told supporters in Banteay Meanchey on Saturday.
Speaking to supporters in Banteay Meanchey’s Sisophon district, Sokha said his party would soon announce a new platform, which would lay out a series of deep reforms that a CNRP-led government would introduce should it win the next election.
The acting CNRP president said that, should his party take power, it would not allow civil servants or security forces to engage in political campaigns to help it shore up power.
“We don’t need the civil servants and the armed forces to work for our party when we win the election,” he said. “We would like to ask the civil servants and the armed forces to serve the nation, to serve its citizens, and to not be used to serve the party.”
“We don’t need to create party branches in ministries or departments. It is a very bad look,” he said.
Rights groups have long been critical of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party shoring up alliances in the country’s bureaucracy and armed forces. Last year, almost 100 senior military and police officials were added to the CPP’s central committee.
The ruling party has also been accused of allowing civil servants and those in the security services to campaign on its behalf ahead of elections, which can violate the election law. In the lead-up to the 2013 election, several instances of misappropriation of state resources for campaigning were recorded, including, for example, cars with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces number plates impounded for bearing CPP campaign materials.
The National Election Committee, and even Prime Minister Hun Sen, have warned against such misuse of state resources.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that civil servants, the armed forces and even court officials “all have rights to join political activity” as long as they were out of uniform and on their personal time.
“This law, [the CNRP] passed with Cambodian People’s Party too,” he said.
However, Koul Panha, executive director of elections watchdog Comfrel, said civil servants, security forces and court official were forbidden from campaigning at any time of the day.
“Judges are not allowed to show a spirit of support for any party, to ensure there is confidence in the courts,” he said.
Panha urged both parties to review and debate the law on political parties to ensure there was clarity in its interpretation.