Rong Chhun, a union leader selected by the opposition CNRP to sit on the National Election Committee (NEC), was on Monday told by the body’s chairman to work harder to uphold an image of neutrality after he was seen talking with a CNRP lawmaker at a Labor Day rally last week.
A meeting of the NEC was called after Mr. Chhun was scolded by CPP spokesman Suos Yara for talking with the unnamed lawmaker during a march he joined in Phnom Penh to mark International Labor Day on Friday.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea told reporters after the meeting, which was held at the NEC offices inside the Ministry of Interior, that NEC chairman Sik Bunhok reminded his colleagues to project an image of neutrality.
“He has reminded all members of the NEC to pay attention when doing things—to be careful in order to avoid a public opinion that the independence and neutrality [of the NEC] is being affected,” Mr. Puthea said.
“All NEC members committed to trying to properly implement the election laws, rules and procedures to ensure the NEC’s independence and neutrality.”
Mr. Puthea said Mr. Chhun would not face punishment for joining the event last week and added that the NEC did not have any rules banning such activity.
Mr. Puthea, who is also the sole “neutral” member of the NEC, declined to answer further questions.
Mr. Chhun, a former opposition-aligned teachers’ union official, said by telephone after the meeting that he had not been formally reprimanded by his peers.
“There was no reprimand or anything like writing a letter, it was just a reminder,” Mr. Chhun said, adding that he would not rule out joining similar events in the future. “I cannot say anything in advance,” he said.
Mr. Bunhok, a former CPP lawmaker who was a key member of the party’s negotiating team during election reform talks, confirmed that Mr. Chhun was not formally reprimanded.
“We just explained the areas in which he is lacking in order for him to correct his behavior,” he said. “It was not right that he attended [the march on Friday] to observe, because he is no longer a union leader.”