The National Election Committee said Monday it hopes to eliminate more than half of the 60,000 national observers registered for Sunday’s election after receiving complaints from poll monitoring groups.
“The NEC are trying their best to eliminate observers,” Committee spokesman Leng Sochea said.
“We hope to disqualify at least half.”
The NEC’s elimination drive follows complaints from the opposition and the international observer body that tens of thousands of untrained observers—many with alleged links to the military—could be used to disrupt the electoral process.
The NEC has drawn up a list of requirements to be fulfilled by local NGOs registering observers for the elections, the panel’s secretary-general, Im Suorsdei, said.
These requirements have been forwarded to provincial election commissions, who are now responsible for withholding accreditation from NGOs unable to fulfill the requirements.
The new measures require NGOs to identify their sources of funding and to show they have sufficient cash to pay observers, as well as providing evidence of training.
“We hope these…measures could reduce the number of observers,” NEC chairman’s spokesman Samraing Kamsan said.
He added that the NEC believes some of the official observer cards already have been released, but he said the number is not thought to be significant.
“We are trying to contact every PEC to find out how many observers have been registered, but so far only Kompong Chhnang and Phnom Penh [have replied],” he said.
Concerns about the motives of certain local observer groups were raised when one organization, the Buddhist Relief Association, was found to have registered about 24,000 people as observers for the poll.
An official from the NGO said she became suspicious when the group’s new president suddenly increased the number of observers from the original 1,000 pledged.
She reported that many of those recent recruits were military personnel with links to the CPP.
The Joint International Observer Group, the UN body coordinating international monitors, complained to the NEC on Friday that the surfeit of local observers could disrupt its efforts to monitor the elections.
“We have stated very clearly that national observers should be neutral and independent,” Im Suorsdei said Saturday. “If they are doing something illegal, they will be removed.”
In an effort to prevent the displacement of international observers, the NEC ordered only four observers to be admitted to each polling station: two international and two local.
Half of the Buddhist Relief Association’s observers now look set to be disqualified under the NEC’s new ruling that no NGO may enlist more observers than there are polling stations—more than 11,500 nationwide.