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Hun Sen Wants Election Monitor as New Member of Election Committee

FILE - Human rights activist Pung Chhiv Kek (left), a prominent figure in Cambodia and founder of the rights group Licadho, and Hang Puthea (right), executive director of the election monitoring group Nicfec, at VOA Khmer in Phnom Penh. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khm

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said he wants the ninth member of the National Election Committee to be Hang Puthea, the head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition are now trying to settle on a ninth member of the NEC, which oversees voter registration and elections. A new election reform law calls for the NEC to be made up of nine members total—four each selected by the parties and a ninth that both can agree on.

The parties’ first choice, human rights activist Pung Chhiv Kek, said Tuesday she would not take the job, because it would be “impossible” to maintain the NEC’s political independence.

“If there is no Hang Puthea, I will not accept it,” Hun Sen said in a speech Wednesday. Hang Puthea has served as a consistent election monitor who would help the NEC, Hun Sen said.

His speech comes after Sam Rainsy, head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, suggested other possibilities, Hun Sen said. “There will be no changes following your will,” he admonished.

Sam Rainsy could not immediately be reached for comment, but Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith said the opposition wants to make a decision on the ninth member in a manner that is consistent with the law—and not only focused on a single person.

More than 40 candidates have submitted applications for the position.

Hang Puthea, whose organization has been a longtime monitor of the country’s elections, said Tuesday he would accept an offer from both parties for the job.