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Opposition Holds Demonstration To Demand Election Reform

Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party's lawmaker Mu Sochua speaks during a protest rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. The Cambodian's main opposition party is calling for electoral reform ahead of general elections in July, saying members of the national electoral committee are biased in favor of powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen. The sign reads: Support the United Nations' recommendation. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH - More than 1,000 opposition activists staged a demonstration in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, demanding reforms to the National Election Committee ahead of July’s parliamentary polls.

Opposition leaders from the Cambodia National Rescue Party said some supporters from the provinces were barred from entering the capital to join the demonstration.

About 100 armored police outfitted with electric batons and riot shields kept the demonstration within the confines of Freedom Park. No clashes with police or injuries were reported.

Demonstrators wore white ribbons around their heads and called for “change” at the NEC.

Kem Sokha, vice president for the new opposition party, said without election reforms supported by the West, the July 27 elections risk illegitimacy. He vowed to continue with further demonstrations if the NEC refuses to make reforms that have been suggested by the UN and others.

The demonstrators also delivered a petition to a representative of the National Election Committee.

“I promise to take this petition and deliver it to higher officials to review and make a decision,” the representative, San Taing Sidoeun, said.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, who recently joined the Cambodian National Rescue Party, said the NEC remains biased toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, a charge the NEC has denied.

Sisowath Thomico called on officials at the NEC to work toward neutrality and objectivity in its processes. If not, he said, the upcoming election will be “useless.”