A top court ordered Cambodia's electoral body on Monday to unseal
voting records in a second province as the main opposition party held a
20,000-strong rally with an ultimatum to the government to set up an
independent probe on widespread irregularities in recently-held national
elections of face a larger demonstration.
In an urgent statement, the Constitutional Council of Cambodia
ordered the National Election Committee (NEC) to open packages with
secured ballot information in Battambang province “in order to verify
votes and vote-counting records.”
Last week, the Council, which is the final arbiter of the election
results, had ordered packages with key voting data to be unsealed for
Kratie province following claims by the opposition Cambodia National
Rescue Party (CNRP) of massive election irregularities, including one
million voters delisted from the electoral rolls.
In a stunning development, an RFA Khmer Service reporter who
witnessed the opening of the Kratie packages at the weekend noticed that
they had already been unsealed, raising concerns among election
watchdog groups of vote tampering.
Some of them have accused the NEC, which oversees the country’s
polls, of being a tool of the government after it announced preliminary
results awarding a victory to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian
People Party (CPP) despite complaints of irregularities.
Freedom Park rally
At Monday’s rally, CNRP President Sam Rainsy accused the NEC of stealing votes from the opposition and giving them to the CPP.
"The NEC stole our votes for the CPP and now they claim they want to find the thief," he said.
Prompting cheers from the crowd, Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha
said that if an independent committee to investigate irregularities is
not established before the NEC announces official results of the polls,
the CNRP will lead much larger mass demonstrations.
"The voters have voted and demanded changes and when we want change,
we want to change the top leader first," Sam Rainsy said, amid chants of
“change” from the crowd.
Sam Rainsy said the planned demonstrations would be staged in the
tradition of Indian civil disobedience leader Mahatma Gandhi’s
Observers said that the CNRP gathering in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh
on Monday was meant as a test of the party’s supporters before the
planned larger mass demonstrations.
Following criticism that voting records had been mishandled, the
Constitutional Council court ordered the NEC to open original ballot
records from eight polling stations in Battambang city on Wednesday.
“The opening of those packages must be done at the Council of
Ministers on August 28 at 8 a.m.,” and the court will monitor the
process, the Council statement said.
Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said
irregularities in security packages in Kratie province have raised
concerns over similar problems in other provinces.
“If we see places where there are more irregularities that might have
affected the allocation of seats in the National Assembly, there should
be reelections in those places,” she said.
The NEC’s preliminary findings supported the CPP’s claims that it won
68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55. The CNRP claims it won at
least 63 seats in the National Assembly.
Meanwhile at the Ministry of the Interior, officials released a DVD
that it said was aimed at documenting for foreign diplomats and
nongovernmental organizations an alleged move by Sam Rainsy to overthrow
the government by calling for mass protests .
Ministry of the Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the DVDs,
titled “Documents Related to Holding Massive Demonstrations for Social
Change,” were aimed at revealing the “bad intentions” behind Sam
Rainsy’s calls for mass demonstrations.
“It shows [leaders of the opposition party] campaigning to ask people
to hold demonstrations to topple the government in 2013,” he said.
He added that the government will fulfill its duty to protect the country if any mass demonstration turned into riots.
Hun Sen had warned previously of protests by his CPP to counter any
mass opposition demonstrations and had deployed troops, tanks and
armored vehicles in the capital to boster security which the opposition
said was a move to intimidate the people.
Kratie security packages
Sam Rainsy said any failure by the NEC to open the packages of
further original ballot records would also prompt mass demonstrations.
At Sunday’s hearing when NEC officials opened the Kratie security
packages—which contain original vote counts from polling stations in the
province on voting day—10 out of 13 were found to have been unsealed.
They were opened in front of reporters, opposition officials, and representatives from the Constitutional Council.
NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the irregularity might have
occurred due to lack of employees’ proper training resulting from budget
CNRP lawmaker Kuy Bunrouen claimed that the original ballot records
in the packages were at odds with preliminary results released by the
He said they included invalid ballots that are missing from the packages and lower vote tallies for small opposition parties.
The Constitutional Council is still reviewing the complaint about the Kratie irregularities, along with others filed to the NEC.