Cambodian election watchdogs are seeking the elimination of an article in the commune election draft law that would force them to join an NGO coordinating committee in order to participate in election preparations.
“We don’t want to have this in the law,” said Thun Saray, first representative for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, one of Cambodia’s three main election monitoring groups. “They put it in to undermine professional election groups.”
Though election monitors will be allowed a voice on the committee, Thun Saray said, they could be overridden by other committee members.
“This article allow all NGOs, even non-election groups, to join the committee. We worry that if we join it, we can be put under pressure. We want to be independent,” he said.
Prum Sokha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, defended Article 50, saying it would cut down on the corruption that has tainted past elections and allow for more even election monitoring, even in Cambodia’s isolated rural areas.
“The reason we want to have this committee is that we want to delegate people to monitor elections with a better system,” he said. “In the past, some places had too few NGO observers and others were crowded.
“Also, some NGOs made money by selling [election] observer cards,” he said. “We learned from past lessons.”
Legislative leaders and the Ministry of Interior agreed last week that discussion of the election laws probably won’t be held before the National Assembly adjourns Jan 16.
They also said the elections would probably be delayed from November of 2001 to early 2002, giving the National Election Committee more time to sort out the logistics of elections in more than 1,600 communes.
CPP opponents have criticized the delay—one of many since the election’s first target date in 1997—claiming influence by government officials that would like to postpone the elections indefinitely.