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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cambodian NGOs Reveal Poll Fraud Report

Three nongovernmental organizations in Cambodia on Wednesday jointly released reports detailing irregularities from disputed recent polls, saying they demonstrated a “need for real reform” of the national electoral body before the country could hold free and fair elections.

Among the irregularities from Cambodia’s July 28 election were allegations of missing or duplicated voter names, an electoral campaign biased in favor of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and voting by foreign nationals, the NGOs said at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

The NGOs—Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC) and Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)—said the list of claims was based on investigations they conducted at community forums around the country.

Comfrel official Sin Tithseila said that the National Election Committee (NEC)—Cambodia’s government-appointed election body—“needs real reform in order to have a free and fair election,” based on the “more than 10,000” cases of irregularities his organization documented.

“When Comfrel audited the [voting] lists, we found problems,” Sin Tithseila said at the press conference.

“Voters … couldn’t find their names—or found name duplicates—and a single voter could [turn in ballots] in many different places.”

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has made repeated calls for an independent probe into claims of voter fraud in Cambodia’s election, which Hun Sen’s government has refused to heed following an official announcement declaring the CPP the victor.

The CNRP has since boycotted parliament over the disputed polls and said it would demand new elections during mass protests beginning Dec. 15 to put pressure on the government to examine the allegations of irregularities.

CCIM director Pa Ngoun Teang said his organization’s report shows that NEC officials were “biased in favor of the CPP,” that voters were seen casting ballots without providing identification, and that illegal “Vietnamese immigrants were allowed to vote.”

CCIM official Nop Vy added that identification cards were “issued non-transparently,” resulting in some voters being “barred from ballot offices while others cast ballots on their behalf.”

He said the report on election irregularities would be sent to NEC officials, along with recommendations on how to reform the electoral process.

CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann, who participated in Tuesday’s conference, said that Hun Sen’s government “doesn’t have the political will to carry out election reform.”

He added that even with laws in place, irregularities—such as voting by illegal Vietnamese immigrants—still took place on a large scale, suggesting that implementation is lacking.

Political deadlock

Talks between the CNRP and the CPP have stalled after a meeting earlier this month yielded little progress.

The CNRP has insisted the talks must have on the agenda discussions about an investigation into poll fraud, resignation of election officials, and implementation of recommendations from U.N. experts and NGOs on electoral and other reforms.

The opposition has claimed that election irregularities, including the removal of one million voters from the electoral rolls, robbed it of election victory.

The NEC awarded the CPP 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55 in the election, but the CNRP claims it won at least 63 seats and has called for a U.N.-backed investigation and led a series of mass demonstrations against the results.

On Tuesday, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha vowed that, following a mass demonstration on Dec. 15, his party will hold regular demonstrations every Sunday until its demands are met.

Reported by Zakariya Tin for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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