Non-governmental observers are facing a shortage of money
for Sunday's election, decreasing the number of eyes watching the polls and the
counts and leaving the country's two main independent monitors concerned for
the free and fair status of the process.
The Committee for Free and Fair Elections had received
$600,000 in elections past, but this year they were given $200,000 from
The shortfall will make it hard for observers to properly
monitor the election, Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free
and Fair Elections, said.
Comfrel in the past was able to put at least one observer at
each station. Ballot stations in past elections went from 12,000 in 1998 to
13,000 in 2003.
"The ballot stations are increasing now, up to 15,000,"
he said. "But we've received less money, and we cannot deploy our staff or
observers for each station to monitor irregularities, because we have only
"We expect that it would have an impact to monitor
properly, but we will focus on the most important stations in the main
provinces," he said.
Comfrel should receive more contributions, not less, he
said, especially considering the rising cost of goods, including food and fuel,
Koul Panha said.
Stressing the importance of observers and acknowledging
their lowered funding, Sok Samoeun, executive director of the Cambodia
Defenders Project, said he had sent 25 volunteer observers to help Comfrel.
The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair
Elections in Cambodia
will field 7,000 observers on Sunday, along with 880 "special"
observers who work throughout the final count.
Nicfec has funding for voter education and observation, but
this year received only $30,000, which led to a cut in training of observers,
executive director Hang Puthea said.
The decrease in funding will hurt the free and fair status
of the election, Hang Puthea said.
"It is necessary that we have observers to ensure free
and fair elections," he said. "If observers are decreasing, the
quality of observation will also go down, and it affects free and fair
elections. The decrease in finances effectively causes a decrease in the number
of observers, because we have the high price of fuel and the high price of
goods, and so we have to reduce the amount of equipment."
In past elections, Nicfec observers wore hats and T-shirts
to identify them, but this year, there are no hats, he said.
The National Election Committee estimates around 24,400
local observers from 67 organizations and 433 from 21 international missions,
including observers from the US, EU, France and Japan.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said he was not concerned
that a lower number of observers would have an effect on the status of the
In 1998 elections had 80,000 observers, he said, but some of
them did not have quality training. The decrease in the number of observers
reflected improved preparations of the election, he said.
"Of course, observers are a mirror, an eye to reflect
the voting process," Tep Nitha said.