Information Minister Khieu Kanharith on Thursday clarified that Prime Minister Hun Sen did not express willingness to see international involvement in an independent investigation into election irregularities, after state media incorrectly reported to the contrary.
State news service Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP), which operates out of the Information Ministry, made the error in reporting on comments made by Mr. Hun Sen on Wednesday during his first public appearance since the election.
Mr. Hun Sen told reporters gathered at an overpass construction site in Meanchey district that the CPP would willingly take part in an investigation into alleged problems at Sunday’s national election as called for by CNRP president Sam Rainsy on Monday.
AKP and a local newspaper reported that Mr. Hun Sen had also agreed with Mr. Rainsy’s specific request that the international community should be involved in the investigation.
“Samdech Techo Hun Sen also welcomed the request to have international involvement in the investigation of irregularities in Sunday’s national election,” AKP reported on its website.
Asked about the disparity between what reporters heard Mr. Hun Sen say Wednesday and the state media report, Mr. Kanharith said yesterday in a Facebook message that “This time AKP made a mistake.”
Asked to clarify whether this meant that the CPP was against the involvement of foreign countries or the U.N. in a probe into irregularities, as called for by Mr. Rainsy, Mr. Kanharith’s response was vague on the issue.
“We are not against [international involvement] but this is Cambodian sovereignty,” the minister said, without responding to a request to clarify his comment.
Following Mr. Kanharith’s comments, the news story on AKP was amended to reflect that Mr. Hun Sen “welcomed the request to have the National Election Committee [NEC], both political parties and local NGOs involved in the investigation of irregularities in Sunday’s national election.”
AKP also erroneously claimed that the CPP had won “55.28 percent of the total votes” at the election, which is the proportion of seats the party claims to have won. According to the latest preliminary figures from the NEC, the CPP won only 48.8 percent of votes—still the highest number of any party.
While the CPP and initial NEC figures agree on a 68-to-55-seat victory for the ruling party at the election, the CNRP has claimed it actually won 63 seats to the CPP’s 60, and has demanded an investigation into election irregularities with U.N. and international involvement to ensure its independence.
Adding to the confusion over whether there will be any international involvement in the CNRP-proposed investigation committee—which is yet to be formally established—Mr. Hun Sen reportedly told a diplomat yesterday that the U.N. might still be involved.
German ambassador to Cambodia Wolfgang Moser said that Mr. Hun Sen spoke about the issue during a closed-door meeting yesterday.
“He [Mr. Hun Sen] said, which was interesting, that also the U.N. could participate” in an investigation, Mr. Moser said after his private meeting with the prime minister.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)
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