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Prominent Rights Activist Invited to Election Committee

Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho.
Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho.

The ruling party and opposition have requested that a prominent human rights activist be selected as the tie-breaking member of the National Election Committee, part of a political compromise reached last week between the two sides.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party on Monday sent the request to Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho.

She has sent back a list of questions she wants answered before accepting the position, Am Sam Ath, a lead investigator for Licadho, told VOA Khmer. She wants to ensure the NEC will be neutral, including in its budget, and work independently to recruit outside experts, he said.

The CPP has not yet responded to those requests, he said.

Both sides still must select four other members each to make up the NEC, which was widely criticized in past elections for bias towards the CPP.

Sam Rainsy said Monday the country was moving toward “historic” national reconciliation in the people’s interest, and he said both sides are working toward selecting their NEC members.

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of national elections that put Cambodia in a political deadlock, an impasse that analysts say may have invigorated more Cambodians to engage in the political process.

“Citizens became active socially, in the media and on social media, talking more about policy,” said Kem Key, a social development researcher in Phnom Penh. “But things that need deep reform, like land disputes, deforestation, the justice system—these are still the same. There is no change.”