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Ninth Member of Election Committee Says He’s Dedicated To Reform

A screen shot from a television monitor showing Hang Puthea (center), a neutral member of election committee, sit in the National Assembly during the election of the National Election Committee at the National Assembly, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Hang Puthea, who on Thursday became the ninth member of the new National Election Committee, says he will use his position to continue electoral reforms.

Some have expressed misgivings that the electoral reform laws passed by the National Assembly, including the formation of the NEC, fall short. But Hang Puthea said in an interview with VOA Khmer he will work hard for positive change.

“I’m not Superman, to come into the NEC and make it completely independent, but at least I can participate and do some work that allows the election process to move better than before,” he said.

Prior to this posting, Hang Puthea led the election-monitoring group Nicfec, which was known for impartiality and independence. He was chosen for the NEC by both the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party, following a declination of the job by prominent rights leader Pung Chhiv Kek.

“What I’m impressed with now is that there are impressive reforms, as both parties see there are irregularities that need to be reformed, and they are reforming them together,” Hang Puthea said. “So I believe reforms are coming.”

In the future, the NEC may have more members of civil society in it, perhaps all nine members one day, he said. For now, he’ll work within the current formula, trying to “prevent national economic and political stalemate.”

He hopes to facilitate an understanding between NGOs and the NEC in a way that can help benefit the election process and that “benefits people in general,” he said. He can also help arbitrate decisions between the eight members selected by the political parties, he said.

Despite what many may think, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy are determined that the NEC be neutral, he said. “Although it faces criticism and some skepticism, I would suggest that our national compatriots give an opportunity to the new NEC to work and fulfill its duty before they make any evaluation.”