Ministry declines to meet poll watchdogs

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Observers are needed for 2018 polls. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Interior Ministry has declined to meet two election watchdogs to discuss their work ahead of the 2018 general election.

Comfrel and NICFEC, both members of the now defunct election situation room, wrote to ask for a meeting with Interior Minister Sar Khneg two weeks ago.

However, Interior Ministry secretary of state Pol Lim said officials were too busy to meet the organisations and would respond by letter.

The situation room, made up of 40 NGOs, earlier issued a statement saying election management had improved but restrictions on political freedom remained in this year’s commune polls.

The government later launched an investigation into whether the situation room had breached the law on NGOs, concluding it should be disbanded for failing to register with officials as a single entity.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director for NICFEC, said the organisations would meet to discuss their next step after they received the official letter. 

Moeun Tola, executive director of Central, another member of the now banned consortium, claimed the situation room should not have needed to register with the government.

“The deployment of observers for the commune elections was just a temporary piece of work, so should not have required us to register separately,” he said.

“I think the ministry requirement is intended to block the freedom of NGOs in observing the election.”

The Asian Network for Free Elections on Monday issued its final report on Cambodia’s commune polls, warning the Interior Ministry investigation into the situation room hinders the legitimate activities of civil society and poses a grave threat to the prospect of independent oversight of Cambodia’s 2018 national elections.

Mr Kuntheamy said Anfrel’s report was in line with the situation room’s analysis of the commune polls, recognising the elections had improved, but urging the government to stop threatening NGOs.

“Anfrel also asked the government not to threaten NGOs ahead of the next election,” Mr Kuntheamy said.

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