Choam Chao commune police arrested a teenager on Tuesday night for jumping the fence at a local school set up as a polling station in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district, but released the man yesterday after determining he and two friends had simply entered the premises to “hang out”.
Suspect Nuth Pov, 18, and two unidentified men, jumped the fence at the school something they told police they did regularly when they ran into police guarding the polling station. Officers were only able to arrest Pov, with the other two escaping, said Sao Sarith, deputy commune police chief.
“He lived near there, and he had used to jump [the fence] to sit and hang out, [but] last night he did not know” that the school-turned-polling station was under police guard, Sarith said.
“We arrested him, questioned him and made a report,” he added. “He was not a bad person, and we requested to release him.”
Sarith added that the threesome were not close to the polling room set up for Sunday’s commune vote and did not affect any election-related material, which was locked away safely at the premises.
He said given the benign nature of the intrusion, Pov was only “educated” and released following a guarantee from his parents to keep him in line.
A Phnom Penh Election Committee official, who refused to be named, said the incident had nothing to do with the polling equipment and that the case was unrelated to the elections.
“What is the point of asking and grilling [me] with these questions? There are authorities in charge of this and to protect it properly, so there is no impact.”
Though the incident on Tuesday was ultimately determined not to involve election tampering, Transparency International’s Preap Kol said there were procedures and safeguards in place to ensure that the integrity of ballot boxes was maintained during the elections.
For instance, observers are instructed to open and inspect ballot boxes before use to ensure that they are empty, after which officials are expected to seal the boxes except for the slot in which ballots are dropped in the presence of election observers.
“However, security officers should be deployed to guard the voting materials and observers or party agents should be allowed to observe if they wish to do so,” he added.