NEC hits back at claims of bias in favour of CPP

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Traffic passes in front of the National Election Commission office in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

The National Election Committee (NEC) released a statement hitting back against accusations that it has become biased to the ruling party, while also repeating oft-used government warnings on the dangers of “colour revolution”.

Dismissing “fabricated news” and “dirty tricks”, the NEC’s press reaction team wrote on Saturday that the group is still “independent, neutral, transparent, and fair”.

The NEC was originally made up of four ruling CPP-nominated members, four opposition CNRP-nominated members, and one neutral member. Following the dissolution of the CNRP and the resignation of three of its NEC appointees, three replacements were chosen – two from smaller parties that were awarded seats in the National Assembly following the dissolution, and another member with strong ties to the CPP.

Saturday’s press release appears to be a response to a series of posts made by Facebook news personality Chham Chhany. Chhany has accused the NEC of being biased and alleged – without proof – that the NEC submitted evidence to the Supreme Court on the CNRP’s involvement in a purported foreign-backed colour revolution.

“Colour revolution has taken place in the world for many decades and many countries in the world have suffered,” the NEC statement says, parroting ruling party talking points.

Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled former CNRP president, said the NEC was being forced to “implement CPP-inspired undemocratic laws”. He said the NEC’s statement was a “smokescreen”.

“The NEC, after the dissolution of the CNRP, has become an expedient tool for the CPP. Any future resolution to the current political crisis must include measures for the NEC to become more balanced in its composition and more powerful in its competence,” he said via email yesterday.

Rong Chhun, a former NEC official appointed by the CNRP who resigned after the opposition’s dissolution, said the NEC should focus on strengthening itself rather than dismissing criticism. Chhun also questioned the group’s statements on the nature of colour revolution.

“Colour revolutions happen depending on the situation of the country . . . If our country is peaceful, free and respects the law, there is nothing to worry about. Colour revolution happens as a result of social injustice,” Chhun said.

Chhun pointed out that people may sometimes protest for “freedom and justice” in Cambodia – the freedom to peacefully protest is enshrined in law – but this should not be considered a colour revolution.