The NEC's Tep Nytha: ‘Detained councillors have the right to vote.' (Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON)
Thursday, 07 May 2009
Written by Vong Sokheng
The Phnom Penh Post
Election organising body says two councillors are in jail, but the opposition says there are five.
THE National Election Committee has asked the Ministry of Justice to ensure that jailed commune councillors are allowed to vote in the May 17 election.
Tep Nytha, secretary general of the NEC, told the Post on Wednesday that he knew of at least two commune councillors currently in provincial prisons.
He said provincial authorities would be responsible for taking imprisoned members to and from polling stations.
"Members of the commune councils who have been detained still have the right to vote," Tep Nytha said. "If any members of the commune councils are missing on election day, that will affect the result since there are only a small number of voters."
The country's 11,353 commune councillors from four political parties - the ruling Cambodian People's Party, the Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party - will vote in the poll to elect members to provincial, district and municipal councils.
The vote is part of the government's decentralisation program and is meant to fill the gap in political representation between commune councils and parliament.
SRP says five in jail
Yim Sovann, an MP and spokesman for the SRP, told the Post that at least five SRP councillors were in prison.
"One is the SRP commune chief in Kampong Thom province," Yim Sovann said. "He was accused of kidnapping, but this is political intimidation to threaten our activists."
The commune chief, Tuot Saron, was arrested March 18 and charged as an accomplice in the alleged illegal detention of a party activist.
Tep Nytha said he had not received any complaints of political intimidation from the contesting parties since campaigning had started.
He said the two largest parties - the CPP and the SRP - were running active campaigns, but Funcinpec and the NRP - which have only 699 councillors between them - were gathering in small groups at those councils where they have members.
Prime Minister Hun Sen recently appealed to the police and local authorities across the Kingdom to cooperate with the NEC to ensure a sound political environment and a free and fair election.
The election monitoring NGO Comfrel has previously said it will boycott the election. It stated that because the poll is restricted to commune councillors, and since the public cannot take part in the vote, it would not reflect the will of the people.