May 29, 2017

Farmers stopped from observing election

The Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community in Svay Rieng claims it has been ordered to stop teaching members how to act as observers in the commune elections.

Local CCFC coordinator May Tith said his group had cooperated with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) and planned to advise 1,146 observers across the country, including 32 in Ampel commune’s Romeas Hek district.

“Officials came to us on Saturday and told us to stop what we were doing until we got written permission from the provincial authority,” he said.

“Our members had permission from the NEC to be official observers, but we were not allowed to teach them how to carry out the role. I don’t understand their thinking,” he said.

A local CCFC member, Ser Saran, said she and her community were disappointed since they were keen to learn how to observe the election.

“We are just farmers and villagers,” she said. “We have never been taught how to be election observers. Now we are worried. Election day is almost here but we still haven’t learned how to do the job.”

Provincial NEC spokesman Buth Kosal said all observers need its approval and they had many to sift through.

“They need permission before doing the job,” he said. “But many go ahead and do it anyway without the proper approval.”

Nut Bopinaroth, a provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the CCFC ban was harsh.

“Having observers is a vital part of the electoral process,” he said.

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