The Sam Rainsy Party said on Friday that more than 200 of their commune councilors will be forced to resign from their positions because they voted for members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP in the May 17 local elections, a move that was blasted as “undemocratic” by an independent election monitoring group.
Phnom Penh SRP lawmaker Ho Vann said that the opposition party had yet to officially sign off on the mass removal, including 33 commune councilors in the capital, but officials had forewarned of such action ahead of last Sunday’s vote.
“They will just remove them from their positions as councilors,” Mr Vann said by telephone, adding that the forced removals were merely a disciplinary measure and that the officials could still remain members of the party.
“It is normal that the party must discipline them; they were told in advance already that if they didn’t vote for [the SRP], they would be removed from their positions,” Mr Vann said, adding that Phnom Penh city has 266 SRP commune councilors in total.
The party, he added, is still un-
derstanding of the SRP councilors who voted for the CPP as some are poor and in need of the bribe money that he alleged was paid by the ruling party.
“Most of the Sam Rainsy Party members are poor,” Mr Vann continued, adding that some councilors were offered $1,000 to $5,000 for their vote as it neared the election day, though he declined to say exactly how the SRP knew who voted for whom in the privacy of the voting booth.
“We have evidence, and some even confessed and wrote letters to quit, saying that they had received the money,” he said.
SRP lawmaker for Battambang province Eng Chhay Eang has also decided to fire councils who voted for the CPP, he added.
Contacted by telephone, Mr Chhay Eang declined to comment on the 24 removals saying that it was an internal matter for the party, and just “a small issue.”
“We have our principle that we asked them to resign,” he said.
“It is their right to vote, but in reality, they were bought off,” he said, though he too declined to explain how the party knew what votes were cast.
Battambang has 208 SRP commune councilors.
Keo Phirum, SRP cabinet chief and recently elected provincial councilor in Preah Sihanouk pro-
vince, said that the party had lost a total of more than 200 votes in the election to vote-buying, but he also acknowledged that some SRP candidates in last Sunday’s election were just not popular among the party’s councilors who voted.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia Director Koul Panha said that it was undemocratic to fire officials who voted for a different party, adding that it was hard to prove vote buying.
“Councilors have specials rights; they can express their opinions, the rights of their conscience,” Mr Panha said.
“If vote buying is found, they can talk to their members about resignation but there needs to be clear evidence,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kan-
harith denied that the CPP had bought off any SRP councilors, and that the opposition party was now insulting their own members by accusing them of vote buying.
“At the commune level, they know how the people are, they know who works and doesn’t work. It is not about buying or not,” he said.
The mass removal of party officials “is like killing oneself,” he added. “The party will dissolve.”