Takeo province officials on Monday defended their last-minute cancellation of a hall booked by the US-funded National Democratic Institute, accusing the group of misrepresentation and operating under a hidden political agenda.
“The NDI came and requested a booking for NGO purposes,” provincial Director of the Rural Development Department, Un Vanna, said. His Takeo municipality office manages the Koh Andet district hall. “But on Saturday they came and [we saw] they were organizing a Sam Rainsy [Party] function. This was different from what they requested,” he said.
NDI Senior Program Manager Dominic Cardy disputed the allegations Monday, saying that NDI activities are strictly apolitical and that the group did not misrepresent itself.
“It was an NDI event. That is the reason why we did not want to hold it at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters,” he said, adding that the NDI had held similar forums for both the CPP and Funcinpec.
The forum on internal party reform went ahead as scheduled Sunday, albeit at a Takeo municipal park.
When asked whether the NDI mentioned that the forum would be attended by opposition activists when the booking was made, Cardy said they had not.
“That doesn’t seem relevant to the issue,” he said.
On Sunday, opposition lawmaker Kuoy Bunroeun accused the hall, initially reported to have been run by the Seila Program—a government program funded partially by the UN Development Program—of caving into CPP pressure to prevent opposition activists from attending the forum.
But on Monday, the Seila Program denied involvement in running the hall.
A UNDP spokesman, speaking on behalf of the Seila Program, denied it had any provincial-level employees, linkages to the CPP or jurisdiction over the renting of the Koh Andet district hall.
“We only provide support to elected commune officials,” UNDP communications officer Men Kimseng said. “It is a provincial building.”