The National Election Committee issued a statement Monday saying it feels “directly attacked” by comments made in Geneva last week by Yash Ghai, the UN’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia.
Ghai’s report to the UN Human Rights Council that the NEC is controlled by the ruling CPP implies that NEC members “are betraying their solemn oath and behave as nothing less than agents of one political party,” the NEC said.
The NEC also said it was not aware of Ghai having visited its offices in the last three years, and that his findings were at odds with the assessments of his predecessors.
The NEC also invited Ghai to pay a visit to foster a more constructive dialogue.
“We would suggest that this dialogue actually starts with the NEC before coming to foregone conclusions,” the statement says.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Ghai’s comments on the NEC were accurate.
“The NEC is the same as the government,” he said. “Everybody knows the CPP controls the NEC,” he said, before accusing the NEC of echoing the government’s position in its statement on the UN envoy.
In his withering assessment of human rights in Cambodia, Ghai also said the government had manipulated democratic processes, undermined legitimate political opposition, and used the state “for the accumulation of private wealth.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at Ghai after a critical report in March, describing him as “rude,” a “long-term tourist,” and demanding that the UN fire him.
Hun Sen, however, has remained conspicuously silent about the UN envoy’s latest findings.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Hun Sen will not respond to Ghai’s searing assessment because his comments are not new.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen will be silent,” Cheam Yeap said.
“We cannot accept Ghai’s statement because it is contrary to the truth,” he added, though he said Hun Sen still wants Ghai to visit Cambodia so he can try and make an accurate assessment.
Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng declined to comment on why Hun Sen has not responded to Ghai, but added, “Cambodia is not awful like that.”