New Election Law May Ban Foreigners From Campaigns

Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin said Monday that he had drafted an article for the new national election law that would ban foreigners and NGOs from voicing political opinions during national elections.

Mr. Chhin has been leading the ruling CPP in negotiations with the opposition CNRP, whose delegation is being led by Kuoy Bunroeun, to amend the election law following a deal last year to create a new bipartisan election committee.

Leaving electoral reform talks Monday, Mr. Chhin said the two parties had discussed a new article dealing with the hours that officials must arrive at polling stations, but said he was working on a more important topic.

“I also wrote articles to state that on polling day, during vote counting and the announcement of results, the NGOs, local and international associations operating in Cambodia, or foreigners, shall uphold an independent stance, neutrality, and be unbiased,” he said.

“Thus, we meant they shall not say this or that…because they must be neutral and they should not be in favor of this or that political parties.”

Asked to clarify who would be targeted by the law, Mr. Chhin said that it would apply to any foreigners who voice an opinion.

“Foreigners living in Cambodia who come out and join the election campaign, [and] provide expression,” Mr. Chhin said. “It will be totally banned because it will poison the atmosphere for polling, vote counting and the announcement of election results.”

Mr. Bunroeun said last week that he supported a ban on NGOs giving media interviews or issuing insulting statements. On Monday, he was evasive when asked if he supported Mr. Chhin’s latest proposal.

“We support any ideas for improving freedom of expression,” Mr. Bunroeun said. “And we will not support any idea to impose restriction on freedom of expression.”

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