Officials Decry Security Force Presence at Polls

Representatives of provincial election committees on Monday called into question the proposed policy of the National Election Commission (NEC) to allow the vast majority of the 92,458 security forces that will be employed during July’s national ballot to enter polling stations while armed and in uniform.

During the first day of a two-day training session for members of the country’s 23 provincial election committees, Santang Sidoeun, the director of the NEC’s Security Department, said that each of the country’s 1,633 communes would position dozens of security personnel from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), national police and military police to guard polling stations.

“Ten police, 10 RCAF soldiers and 10 military police for each commune,” said Mr. Sidoeun. “They will stand outside the polling office.”

Due to financial constraints, only three members of the military and police forces deployed in each commune would be given an armband to identify them as NEC security guards, Mr. Sidoeun added.

Although it is explicitly stated in Cambodia’s election law that armed and uniformed members of the military or police forces are not allowed to enter polling stations to prevent possible intimidation, the NEC has decided to make an exception for this election for selected security personnel in order to allow them to vote, Mr. Sidoeun said.

“The NEC allows them to vote in their uniforms and they can vote at the polling station where they register,” he said.

Preng Savuth, the director of the Provincial Election Committee in Kompong Thom province, was among a number of election officials who said that without armbands, it would be difficult for polling station chiefs to know whether or not uniformed military and police officials were working for the NEC.

“The NEC must not allow police or RCAF to vote when they are not wearing the NEC banner,” said Mr. Savuth.“If they don’t wear the banners, it will make it difficult to know where these police are from, and it would make the public and NGOs say that this is an unusual election.”

Hang Puthea, the director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that wearing a police or RCAF uniform without NEC identification would be an outright violation of the election law. “Police who work as security guards during the elections should take off their uniforms or wear NEC arm bands when they vote,” he said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Monday, however, that the NEC would stand by its decision to allow security personnel to vote in uniform.

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