By Yun Samean
The cambodia daily
The National Election Committee’s deputy president, who was appointed to a government position, said Sunday that he has resigned from the committee to avoid a conflict of interest, amid questions over the committee’s neutrality.
Ngei Chhay Leang said he submitted his resignation letter to the committee after his inauguration Friday as a Funcinpec secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.
He said he waited until after the inauguration to resign because he feared he might lose the Commerce Ministry post if the so-called “package vote” measure to end the political deadlock failed, he said Sunday.
“There is no hurry to resign. I suspected those who asked me to resign want to take my position,” he said.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha, however, said Sunday that he has not received a resignation letter from Nge Chhay Leang.
Ngei Chhay Leang asked for a holiday of unspecified length when the government formed last month but did not mention leaving the committee permanently, Tep Nitha said.
Since the five-member committee needs a quorum of four to make official decisions, Ngei Chhay Leang’s absence is not hampering the committee’s progress, Tep Nitha said.
Regardless of Ngei Chhay Leang’s resignation, the appointment of a member of the nominally politically neutral NEC to a government post casts doubt on the committee’s neutrality, said Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Kem Sokha.
“NEC is not neutral because it was appointed by political parties. I suggest the new NEC members should be independent candidates,” he said Sunday, noting Ngei Chhay Leang’s affiliation with Funcinpec.
Once it receives the resignation notice from the NEC, the Interior Ministers will select a candidate and fill the committee position within 30 days, according to the law, said Sak Setha, director general of the ministry’s general department.
The committee’s integrity could be compromised if the resignation issue is not resolved, observers said Sunday.
“Ngei Chhay Leang must choose one of the two positions. Otherwise, it would be a conflict of interest,” Constitutional Council member Son Soubert said.