Prime Minister Hun Sen has approved the National Election Committee’s plans to move from the Interior Ministry complex to a building next to the Supreme Court’s new Russei Keo district location, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said Tuesday.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen already agreed” to move the committee to a new building, Leng Sochea said.
The NEC’s Interior Ministry location has been a bone of contention for critics of the committee who allege that it is government-controlled, and some observers heralded the new location as a step toward independence.
“We need a neutral location in order to avoid criticism,” NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said.
But critics say that the move is only a symbolic change, missing the real issue: balance and transparency in how members of the committee are selected.
“It is not important to change the location,” opposition senator Thach Setha said. “If the NEC wants to be independent, they should change its structure.”
Committee for Free and Fair Elections director Koul Panha praised the decision to move as a “big improvement,” but said much still needs to be done.
“It is better than inside the buildings of the Ministry of Interior,” he said, adding that the new building must be designed to offer public access. “Especially for the media, for the observer, access to the building is important.”
He added that laws must be amended to make the election of committee members balanced and transparent.
“The people are very important,” Koul Panha said. “It’s not just the building.”
Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, concurred that the move is a positive step, but said more needs to be done before observers will regard the NEC as truly independent.