Squabble Breaks Out Over Observer Limits

kompong cham town – Tempers flared briefly Wednesday morning at the provincial election commission headquarters, when party agents discovered they had far too few observers to monitor ballots being counted at 17 separate tables.

“We only have two observers each, how can we see what’s going on?” shouted an angry Sam Rainsy Party official.

Yin Bunthith, chief of the pro­vincial commission, was in no mood to argue after two nights camped out next to the ballot bags.

“Those are the rules,” he snapped. “You’re only complaining because you’ve lost. I obey the NEC, not the party agents.”

“The international observers have priority,” Yin Bunthith said. “They can have as many as they want.”

Unofficial results from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections have put Funcinpec ahead here by about 6 percent, with the CPP second and the Sam Rainsy Party third. The apparent victors, however, were unhappy with the PEC’s restriction on the number of observers and party agents admitted for the consolidation of results.

“It’s true, we cannot see everything that’s going on,” Funcinpec agent Ok Socheat said. “There should be a party agent for every table, but they won’t let us have more than two.”

National observers from ac­credited monitor groups fared no better. Comfrel provincial chief Neang Sovath had requested 17 of his staff to be present, but the PEC only allowed two.

Neang Sovath shook his head in despair as he and the other Comfrel representative scrambled over blue ballot bags to get to tables where irregularities emerged. Several sacks lacked official blue seals from the Na­tional Election Com­mittee, and smaller bags inside the sacks containing results were not properly sealed either.

“I am not accusing anyone of fraud,” Neang So­vath said, “but if someone wanted to do it, this would make it very easy. The people who didn’t seal the bags say it’s just a technical mistake, but if they wanted to do it properly, they could. They just blame the poll­ing station staff.”

But the two CPP agents who came to watch the count seemed content with the arrangements. One disappeared soon after the first blue sack was opened, while the other, Thong Chanleap, relaxed on the veranda.

Asked why he was not observing the count, Thong Chanleap simply shrugged and said, “We must trust one another.”


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