The consortium of civil society groups that monitored the recent commune elections yesterday confirmed they will not be partnering again to monitor the 2018 national election following an investigation launched into their activities.
Thirty-eight civil society groups formed a ‘Situation Room’ to monitor the June 4 commune elections.
After the ballot, the consortium released a statement saying the overall election process had improved, while also criticising the pre-election atmosphere, which included restrictions on political freedom, a lack of an independent judiciary and the intimidation of civil society groups.
The consortium said the pre-election atmosphere led them to conclude that elections in Cambodia are not yet “fully free and fair”.
This led to Prime Minister Hun Sen ordering an investigation into the group’s legal status under the recently passed Law on Association and Non-governmental Organisations. The investigation concluded the consortium should have registered with the ministry as per the law.
The consortium said in a statement yesterday that it has been ordered by the Interior Ministry not to assemble again in 2018.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog the Neutral Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said his organisation will abide by the Interior Ministry’s directive.
“We will not form another situation room since Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered it to be closed,” he said, noting that he has requested a meeting with the minister to discuss the matter further.
Mr Kuntheamy said he plans to discuss the developments with other NGO leaders prior to hopefully sitting down with Mr Kheng.
“Even though there will be no ‘Situation Room’, we will still cooperate with each other on electoral affairs,” Mr Kuntheamy said.
Moeun Tola, executive director of Central, another member of the now banned consortium, said all groups in the group were registered and the group was only formed for a short period of time, meaning it should not have been required to register.
“The NGO law is being used to prevent organisations from banding together,” he added.