Pung Chhiv Kek Declines NEC Nomination

Pung Chhiv Kek, the president of rights group Licadho, has declined her nomination as the “neutral” member of the bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC), forcing the CPP and CNRP to select a new candidate for the key final position on the body.

Ms. Chhiv Kek was selected by both the CPP and the CNRP less than a week after their July 22 political deal, which ended the CNRP’s parliamentary boycott in exchange for a new NEC made up of four members from each party and the “neutral” candidate.

Yet she said in a statement Tuesday morning that she is unable to accept a position on the NEC.

“Although it was a great honor to have been chosen for this very important position, I deeply regret I have to decline the offer to be the ninth member of the new NEC,” Ms. Chhiv Kek said.

“I apologize to my fellow compatriots who had faith in me and whom I may have disappointed.”

Ms. Chhiv Kek initially accepted her position last year on a number of conditions including that she be granted the same immunity from prosecution given to lawmakers, and said Tuesday the rights of NEC members as legislated fell short of her expectations.

“At that time, the role of the ninth member was described to me as ‘an independent member [who] will bring to this institution the neutrality it needs to organize elections in conformity with the Constitution and the national laws,’” Ms. Chhiv Kek said.

“Today, I conclude that this task has become impossible,” she said.

Nominations for the other eight positions on the NEC were opened on Friday, and officials from both parties have said they hope to establish the body before Khmer New Year, which begins on April 14.

However, the CPP and CNRP will now have to select a new “neutral” candidate to create the body that the two parties have spent the past seven months negotiating.

Under the new law establishing the new NEC, the old NEC that the CNRP accuses of facilitating fraud at the 2013 election will continue to operate until all nine members of the new body are sworn-in.

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