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Commune Election Monitors Expect Increase in Irregularities

Cambodia residents line up at a polling station in Ta Khmau town in Kandal province, file photo.

As commune elections draw near, election monitors expect violence and intimidation to increase.

The June 3 polls, in which Cambodians select local commune leaders, could also see vote buying and other irregularities, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Political parties will also likely put pressure on monitors and rights groups, he said, during a roundtable discussion with local journalists in Phnom Penh Wednesday. Comfrel has begun training volunteer monitors, he said.

Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said he had not seen authorities or party members intimidate or persuade voters. However, he said, irregularities will be dealt with.

“In terms of people who come to disturb voters, we firstly remind them that this act is wrong,” he said. “If they still ignore [the rules], we will dismiss them from the polling station.”

However, Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said elections are always periods of intimidation. Some villagers are encouraged to swear oaths to the ruling party and to vote for them. Others are intimidated or afraid to vote their will, he said.

At least 10 parties have registered for elections, which will be held across 1,633 communes next month. This Friday will mark the beginning of the 15-day campaign period.