CNRP Walks Out of NEC Complaints Hearing

The opposition CNRP on Thursday walked out of an election complaints session at the headquarters of the National Election Committee (NEC), claiming the body was investigating complaints improperly and without the presence of its leadership.

The CNRP, which has called for a transparent and independent investigation into what it says was massive fraud during the July 28 national election, said Thursday it would not accept the complaint-handling process currently being conducted by the NEC.

During a hearing on election-day complaints from Kratie province, CNRP representative Kuy Bunroeun almost immediately declared the session a farce and accused the director of the NEC’s operations department, Heu Rong, of using the incorrect forms to verify complaints.

“What are you verifying?” demanded Mr. Bunroeun, asking for original versions of the so-called 1102 forms—which are filled out at each polling station to record the tally at the time votes are counted and later sealed.

Mr. Bunroeun claimed that officials were using unsealed 1102 forms to investigate the complaints from Kratie province.

“You can’t bring an unknown 1102 form to verify,” he said.

Before they are sealed, the 1102 forms are copied onto forms known as 1104s, which are handed to political parties. But the opposition says the 1104 forms cannot be trusted unless they are compared with the original, sealed 1102 forms.

Although the ruling CPP and the NEC agree the ruling party won the election with 68 seats to the CNRP’s 55, the opposition has said its own counting of 1104 forms revealed it had won with a majority of 63 seats.

“You have to tear open safety box A and provide it to the general public,” Mr. Bunroeun said, referring to the name given to the seal around the 1102 forms.

Before storming out of the hearing, Mr. Bunroeun said that members of the NEC’s committee, headed by chairman Im Suosdey, should have been present for such a session.

He referred to Article 16, point 25 of the Law on the Election of Mem­bers of the National Assembly, which states that the NEC is responsible for “deciding on all complaints and appeals relating to the election through public hearing, except complaints which fall un­der the jurisdiction of the courts.”

The hearing held by the NEC yesterday dealt with complaints from 13 polling stations in two districts of Kratie province. Today, the NEC will be handling complaints from Siem Reap and Kandal provinces.

“We will verify the 1104 forms with the 1102,” Mr. Rong said, explaining that the 1102 forms being used had been collected from the Provincial Election Committees (PECs), which also take an 1102 from each polling station—though those ones are not placed in a sealed box.

“We collected these forms from the PECs and they are the original forms and stamped correctly,” he said.

Mr. Rong also said that the CPP and Funcinpec, a party that did not win any seats, had agreed with the verification process.

But the both the CNRP and election monitors said the failure to use the sealed forms meant those being used to check complaints could have been tampered with.

Kong Ravine, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that only the sealed 1102 forms should be used in the complaints process, since tampering was possible with other versions of the form.

“According to the regulations, if there is any irregularity in some polling station, the 1102 in safety packet A can be opened,” she said. Otherwise “it can be different.”

After the hearing came to a close, the CNRP issued a statement saying the process used by the NEC was unacceptable.

“The CNRP will absolutely not accept the verification mechanism of irregularities, which is using the 1104 forms and 1102 that are not in safety box A,” it says.

“The NEC must make a decision to open a public hearing on complaints and objections relating to the election, except those complaints that fall under the jurisdiction of the court.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha insisted that Mr. Bunroeun was mistaken to say the NEC was mishandling the complaints.

“This is his opinion,” he said. “The NEC has followed all legal procedures properly.”

Mr. Nytha repeated that the verification process did not require a public hearing, which would mean the sitting of the full NEC.

“The NEC had a meeting and made a decision to send lower-level staff to verify [the complaints],” he said.

(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis)

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