Sam Rainsy Members Plan to March on NEC

Sam Rainsy Party supporters will take to the streets Saturday morning to protest the National Election Committee’s rejection of their demands to hold recounts in seven communes where the party suffered narrow losses in the Feb 3 commune elections, a party official said Wednesday.

Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet chief Phi Thach said he expected about 500 people to march from the National Assembly to NEC headquarters in the Interior Ministry because “the NEC is not responding fairly to our complaints.”

The march would be the first public demonstration against the election outcome.

Though the party lodged some 100 complaints with the NEC following the elections, including allegations of violence and intimidation, it is now asking only for recounts in seven communes in Kompong Cham and Takeo provinces and Phnom Penh.

But a NEC official said its board had voted 6-2 against investigating the Sam Rainsy Party’s disputes.

“A board meeting of the NEC voted to reject the seven complaints,” the official said. “If we recount the votes it will not change the results of the areas where the vote took place.”

Pointing out that mass demonstrations following the 1998 national elections damaged the ballot’s credibility, Kuol Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Wednes­day he hoped the NEC and Sam Rainsy Party could reach a compromise.

“This kind of demonstration is not good for the election’s im­age,” he said. “People will see this and ask, ‘What is wrong with the elections?’”

The NEC should consider Sam Rainsy’s complaints to “show the public more confidence,” Kuol Panha said. But the opposition needs to respect NEC deadlines, he added.

The party sent a letter Wednes­day to the city saying it will hold the protest, Phi Thach said. Municipal Cabinet chief Mann Chhoeun said he had not seen the letter.

Even if the city doesn’t grant the party permission to demonstrate, “we will do as planned,” Phi Thach said.

(Additional reporting  by Agence France-Presse)



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