The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) warned Saturday that the “indelible” ink that voters will dip their fingers into at polling stations on Sunday, to ensure that people only cast one vote, can be easily washed away.
The National Election Committee (NEC) held a press conference late Saturday afternoon to respond to the revelation and claimed that while it was possible to remove the majority of the security ink after cleaning, a small residue would remain visible on the voter’s nail.
“After Comfrel tested the ink from the NEC [National Election Committee] headquarters on our own fingers…it could be removed completely,” Thun Saray, chairman of Comfrel’s board of directors, said at a press conference earlier Saturday.
Mr. Saray said that the substance that staff from Comfrel used to remove the voter security ink “is a common item that people use,” but declined to say exactly what the erasing substance was to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Comfrel had been asking the NEC for days to test the security ink that will be used during Sunday’s national election, he said.
“We didn’t want to do this [so near to elections], but we asked the NEC 10 days ago to test the ink, but the NEC only allowed us to test the ink yesterday [Friday] and we want the public and the NEC to know that the ink can be removed,” he said.
A video of the voter ink being easily removed from the little finger of a Comfrel staffer had received more than 1,000 views on YouTube by Saturday afternoon.
Comfrel’s ink test findings were announced shortly before the Cambodia National Rescue Party held its own press conference on Saturday claiming that there are hundreds of thousands of voters who are registered at multiple polling stations, allowing for the possibility of widespread voter fraud.
Mr. Saray also complained of the NEC’s refusal to accept Comfrel’s request that election observers and political parties be allowed to review the lists of people who actually vote on Sunday to check for multiple voting and other possible fraud.
“The removable ink along with the banning of the NEC for [outside parties and observers] to verify [post-election] voter lists allows for no transparency, makes it easy to cheat and causes doubt before elections,” Mr. Saray said.
NEC President Im Sousdey said at a press conference to address the security ink issue that while the ink does rub off after cleaning, a slight stain remains on the nail allowing monitors to see if someone has already voted.
“I believe that it cannot completely be cleaned off. It remains on the nail,” Mr. Sousdey said.
He added that the same ink had been used in every election conducted in the country since 1998 and that the NEC had compared the quality of the ink from India with other products from England and Canada.
“If we compare the ink to other countries it is good quality,” he said.
After listening to Mr. Sousdey’s defense, a Comfrel staffer challenged his version of events and claimed that the ink could be easily removed in its entirety, including the nail.
“Yesterday, I tested the ink. You can see my finger was completely clean,” the Comfrel staffer said raising his spotless finger into the air.
Mr. Sousdey did not respond.