Legal experts on Wednesday dismissed a warning made by the CPP on Tuesday that legal action could be taken against the opposition CNRP if it did not stop saying the ruling party controls the National Election Committee (NEC).
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Tuesday that the CNRP’s insistence that the NEC was a tool of the CPP was “defamatory rhetoric.”
But Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said Wednesday that the CNRP could easily defend itself against any such charges.
“Under Cambodian defamation laws, if the CNRP has just one piece of evidence to support its claims [that the NEC manipulated the election to favor the CPP], it would be the winner in the case,” Mr. Sam Oeun said.
“For example, if the CNRP could prove that just one NEC official was a member of the CPP or that one member did something to help the CPP win the election, then the law would be satisfied that no defamation has been committed.”
“I think it is a very easy case for the CNRP to prove.”
The nine-member NEC has undeniable ties to the CPP. NEC President Im Suosdey, for instance, is the brother of CPP Education Minister Im Sothy and was once a deputy chairman of the CPP’s youth association.
Concerns over the NEC’s independence have also been voiced by the U.N. Human Rights special Rapporteur to Cambodia, Surya Subedi.
Koul Panha, executive director at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, which in October plans to release a complete report on the NEC’s composition, selection and performance, said the appointment of NEC members is completely controlled by the ruling party.
“The selection of the NEC members goes through the Ministry of Interior, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. All of those institutions are under the control of the CPP government,” he said.
“I don’t think that the CPP would take this case to court, but if they did, with the current situation of the courts and the issues of neutrality, the CPP would win,” he added.
Still, Adhoc president Thun Saray said that simply proving previous links between current NEC members and the CPP would not stand as hard evidence in court.
“It may be hard to find actual proof that NEC members are instructed by the CPP…but if we judge by their actions, [such as] the organization of voter lists and [the NEC’s] ability or will to solve [election] problems, we can see clearly whether they are impartial or not,” Mr. Saray said.
Contacted Wednesday, Mr. Siphan maintained his stance.
“I am not a legal expert but I stand by my comments. I don’t need to add anything else,” he said.
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