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NEC upbeat after Japan funding

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
NEC chairman Sik Bunhok. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The National Election Committee said it could not fail after Japan donated about $7.5 million in aid, including 15,000 ballot boxes, to help the election body secure a free and fair election in July.

The European Union and United States cut funding to the NEC following the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in November.

Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, Hidehisa Horinouchi, yesterday signed an agreement with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn at the ministry, granting about $7.5 million in aid to the NEC for the July 29 general election.

Mr Horinouchi said Cambodia’s economy has been steadily improving over the past 20 years.

“Ballot boxes are symbolic of Japan’s assistance for democracy in Cambodia and I hope these ballot boxes will assist in holding smooth elections,” he said.

NEC chairman Sik Bunhok told reporters that Japanese experts cooperated well with the NEC and never commented on Cambodia’s internal affairs like other countries.

“Our Japanese friends have never abandoned us and have never interfered in our internal affairs,” he said. “There is no way we will fail the upcoming election.”

Mr Bunhok added the two countries were good friends and had helped each other in all circumstances.

He said the NEC needed 30,000 ballot boxes. Japan gave 15,000 while the rest were being donated by China and would arrive in March.

“I have a clear goal. I try my best to serve the country, not destroy the country,” Mr Bunhok said.

“We try our best to succeed in this election and have stability afterwards, not unrest like other countries. It cannot happen here, we have friends as you see.”

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of elections watchdog NICFEC, supported the Japanese grant aid to the NEC, especially the ballot boxes.

“The ballot boxes are very good quality and now the NEC has enough equipment to conduct the electoral process,” he said.

Mr Sokhonn thanked the government of Japan and their people for helping develop the kingdom.

The Japanese government from 1998 to 2008 granted the NEC a total of $13 million in aid, including equipment, technical assistance and ballot boxes for holding general elections and commune council elections.

“Japan is one of the biggest aid donors among other countries to help with infrastructure, health, education, the electrical network and human resources,” Mr Sokhonn said.

He added Japan granted about $319 million for six projects in 2017.

“This clearly shows the commitment of Japan in supporting Cambodia’s government to urge economic growth and social development,” he said.

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