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Election Committee Official Warns Public Servants Against Campaigning

Keo Phalla, director of the Legal and Dispute Department of Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC) discusses the commune election campaign during Hello VOA radio call-in show in Phnom Penh, May 25, 2012.

A National Election Committee official warns government officials of being punished or reprimanded if they are found to join the election campaign or to be involved with political activities.

Keo Phalla, director of the committee’s legal department, said civil servants and members of the armed forces cannot participate in campaigning. Commune council elections are to be held June 3, with a two-week campaign period to end on June 1.

“If we find that civil servants and arm forces actively involve into political activities or campaign, the NEC has the authority to fine them and send their names to their institutions for reprimand and punishment,” he said. Criminal offenders may also face the courts—civilian or military—he said.

There were 35 complaints from the beginning of the campaign, May 18, through May 25. Eight of them involved threats, intimidation or heated words, he said. Several involved inebriated political party activists, he said.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, an independent monitoring organization, said he had received reports of civil servants, police and soldiers involved in political activities and campaigning. It is impossible to police, however, he said, because Cambodia has no independent body to punish them.

“There is no solution,” he said. “That’s a problem that turns to conflicts and complaints. This affects the equity and fairness of the campaign.”

Violence and irregularities have decreased compared to the 2007 commune elections, he said. However, observers say they worry more irregularities, like vote-buying and intimidation, will spike in the lull between the end of the campaign period, on June 1, and the election, on June 3.