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Election Monitoring Group Backs Out of Observer Mission


Teachers and students participate in a campaign by the National Election Committee, NEC, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. NEC on Wednesday held its campaign with the teachers and students on the disseminate awareness of the law on the organization and functioning of the election law for the 2018 general election. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Five political parties have so far successfully registered for the election, while a further 15 are having their applications reviewed.

A major independent Cambodian election watchdog has said it will not participate in its usual monitoring mission for this year’s election, saying they felt pressured by the government.

Korn Savang, a senior official with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said the group would not deploy staff to polling stations for the July election after the government had claimed election observers were involved with alleged partisan attempts to topple the Hun Sen regime.

“These ... reasons have caused concern among civil organizations over those accusations by especially government-backed news media.”

Sam Kuntheamey, head of Nicfec, another election monitoring group, could not be reached for comment.

Comfrel was part of a coalition of election monitoring and rights groups that observed the 2013 election, known as the Situation Room, which reported on issues such as a lack of transparency in voting procedures. The government accused the Situation Room of conspiring with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and banned it ahead of the next election.

Hang Puthea, National Election Committee spokesman, said the absence of Comfrel from the election would not affect its legitimacy.

“If those civil society groups do not deploy their officers, there will be other organizations who will observe,” he said.

Five political parties have so far successfully registered for the election, while a further 15 are having their applications reviewed.

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