Faced with poor roads, the rainy season and a shortage of time, the National Election Committee has contracted with a helicopter company and is negotiating a deal with Royal Air Cambodge to transport ballots to and from remote areas, NEC officials said Monday.
The electoral committee is finalizing a $50,000 agreement with Royal Air Cambodge to fly polling kits to Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Siem Reap and Battambang starting the end of this week, according to the NEC logistics division.
The flights are scheduled to begin Thursday and will deliver about 1,000 polling kits to the provincial election commissions, even though those commissions are accessible by road. “[Flying] is safe, more secure and we have a lot to move there, so it is much faster,” a logistics adviser said.
Once the polling kits are in the provinces, it is the responsibility of the provincial commissions to deliver them to the polling stations.
“But if they have a particular problem area, we will use the helicopters to fly from the PEC to the commune level or from the commune to a particular polling station,” the logistics adviser said.
The NEC has also contracted with Helicopters New Zealand for three small AS-350 helicopters, which can carry up to 10 of the 30-kg polling kits. The contract, for an undisclosed amount, also has access to a larger Bell 212 for transporting larger amounts.
While some will be high-flying, the majority of polling kits, which include ballot books, a privacy screen and the ballot box, are to be delivered by truck under the NEC’s $400,000-plus ground transport plan. The first convoy to Kompong Cham province is to begin this week, according to NEC Information Officer Leng Sochea.
The electoral committee is still finalizing plans for getting all the ballot boxes back after polling day. Leng Sochea said Monday that helicopters will be used as much as possible and that a Western nation—which he would not name—had pledged more than $700,000 to fund air transport for ballot boxes.
Leng Sochea said washed-out roads in remote areas, plus time constraints on counting the ballots, made it necessary to use air transport. “We have only one day. We must announce the first results on the first of August. There is very poor transportation in Cambodia.”