Use of State Cars To Campaign Called Biased

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay wrote to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday, asking him to take action against individuals allegedly campaigning for the ruling CPP in state-owned vehicles.

“The law does not allow the use of state property in order to serve political campaigns,” Son Chhay wrote. “There are some civil servants, police officers and military officers who removed [license plates] from state vehicles…in order to [conduct campaigning],” he wrote.

On some vehicles, paper or posters with party logos covered the license plate area, he added.

Son Chhay said allowing this behavior to go unpunished undermines the fairness of the election and tarnishes the reputation of the police force.

“This will lead to a biased election and will affect the Ministry of Interior’s reputation,” he wrote.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieu­tenant General Khieu Sop­heak said that officials who had spent their own money on their vehicles could do as they wished with them.

“It is nothing wrong if they spent their own money. It is not state property,” he said.

However, he said, individuals need to remove state or military li­cense plates for campaigning to comply with the election law.

When asked whether this violated the traffic law, which states that drivers of vehicles without license plates are subject to a prison sentence of between six days and one month and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 riel, Khieu Sopheak said it was up to the traffic police to enforce the law.

But Phnom Penh municipal traffic police chief Tin Prasoer said there are no official repercussions for drivers who remove RCAF, police or government plates to campaign in an election.

“If we see them, we will advise them to put on civil plates. We do not fine them,” Tin Prasoer said, adding that police generally do not pull cars over in the middle of election campaign caravans, even if they are without tags.

“We cannot stop them during the campaign rally; otherwise, they will be disappointed. If we can forgive them, we close our eyes,” the traffic police chief said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap ad­mitted that some CPP members are unaware of the laws and are using state vehicles to campaign, but he said it is only a few individuals.

“Some people have no other transportation, but want to help the party. There are some mistakes,” he said.

Nevertheless, Cheam Yeap denounced Son Chhay’s complaint as “political sabotage to turn voters against the CPP.”

Speaking by telephone, Son Chhay said that authorities should be better informed about the traffic law, which became effective in March 2007.

“I am sad that the Ministry of Interior does not know about the traffic law,” he said. “Authorities must comply with the law. They cannot stop implementing the law before the election.”

Son Chhay also claimed that officials on commune- and provincial-level election committees are biased toward Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP. Of the 20 complaints the SRP has filed since the campaign began June 26, only five cases have been heard, he said.

“PEC and CEC must not serve their political parties. They are [National Election Committee] officials, not party advocates,” he said, claiming that election committee officials are selected for their jobs along party lines.

“They are the lawyers and judges for the CPP,” he claimed.

The SRP issued a statement Wed­nesday accusing Battambang PEC President Vorn Porn of being incapable and biased for having thrown out four cases without good reason.

Vorn Porn said by telephone Thursday that he has conducted himself according to NEC rules. He said he has received a total of 16 complaints from the SRP, eight of which he was forced to dismiss because of a lack of evidence. In one complaint in Rata­nak Mol district, he ruled in favor of the SRP, he said.

“We issued a warning statement against the CEC president for preventing an SRP rally…. We are complying with the NEC’s rules,” he said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha denied that there was bias among the country’s 100,000 election committee officials.

“Our selection is unrelated to party affiliations. It is based on their qualifications and experience,” he said, adding that the committees have been working very hard to field all the complaints from all sides.

Of the 83 complaints filed at the commune level, he said 12 were dismissed. Six of the 40 complaints at the provincial level have been dismissed. Dismissals are usually because of lack of evidence, he added.

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