Banned Observer Groups Say NEC’s Actions Led to Fraud For Denied Entrance to Polls

Election observers barred from polling stations blame the Na­tional Election Committee for election irregularities that they say were caused by the last-minute ban on some groups.

“There were not enough na­tional observers to watch the polling and counting process, and now it is causing problems,” Sontvint Saban said Thursday. He is the president of Foffec, whose 20,000 observers were ex­cluded from the polling places. He said a total 54,820 accredited observers were barred.

He claimed the NEC’s decision, announced the day before the election, to exclude some NGOs from the observation process had led to increased irregularites.

Only three NGOs were al­lowed access to polling and counting stations—the Commit­tee for Free and Fair Elections, Co­alition for Free and Fair Elec­tions, Neutral and Indepen­dent Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia. They were deemed to be internationally recognized monitoring groups.

“If our observers could have joined the others to observe the election, we could have avoided the kind of trouble we are seeing now,” Sontvint Saban said, accusing the NEC of favoritism.

Funcinpec, the Sam Rainsy Party and 12 smaller parties have all complained of election irregularities.

Foffec has formed an alliance with other NGOs banned by the NEC to protest their disqualification, Sontvint Saban said. Also in the alliance are the Bud­dhist Association for the Relief of the Poor, Kiyad and the Khmer Youth Association for Develop­ment.

Sontvint Saban said his organization is continuing to issue its own observer cards to its members, because they are joining a Philippine-based international monitoring group.

Foffec’s president denied an allegation by 15 former members of the organization that he took money from more than 10,000 members and promised them jobs. That accusation was published in the Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea on Thursday.

Sonvint Saban said some people in his organization took  mon­ey from members as a membership fee but denied he profited.

Earlier this week, the president of one provincial election com­mis­sion said he had received complaints from members of the banned organizations who said they were promised jobs in re­turn for money.

“Each organization was asking for money from  its new members, between $20 and $30,” said Kong Srun, president of Battam­bang PEC. “We’ve now received tens of complaints against these organizations. The new members are claiming they were exploited.”


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