Hun Sen Bites Back at Critics of Commune Election Process

Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted NGOs and opposition leaders who criticized the June 4 commune election process, saying they would only be satisfied with an election if it ended with the opposition taking over the Peace Palace or resulted in his death.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen urged all parties to accept the official results of the election released on Sunday, which saw his party win roughly 70 percent of the commune chief spots.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, takes questions about Sunday’s commune elections at a news conference in Phnom Penh earlier this month (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“They have a tantrum endlessly—until they enter the Peace Palace, [then] they [will] say it is free,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s office. “They are not satisfied.”

He took particular issue with a consortium of NGOs dubbed the Situation Room, which said in a statement released on Saturday that the election environment was not free or fair, citing the imprisonment of opposition figures, threats by ruling party leaders and controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties.

“A political party and an NGO did not consider it free,” he said. “I say that it will be considered free for them when they enter the prime minister’s home or assassinate the premier on the spot—then it would be free.”

Sotheara Yoeurng, the law and monitoring officer at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, which was a member of the Situation Room, defended the group’s conclusion, saying in a Facebook message that it was based on a variety of indicators throughout the election process.

“We said the election was not very free because before and during elections, political [parties] registered for contesting were not free from political expression and had unequal use of mass media to broadcast the campaign and party’s policy and agenda,” he said, citing one example. He also praised the National Election Committee’s management of the vote itself.

The CNRP, meanwhile, issued a statement on Monday reiterating many of the Situation Room’s critiques, including the arrest and detention of opposition politicians as well as rights workers, the disenfranchisement of migrant and garment workers and the stack of legal cases against exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The commune elections “have not completely fulfilled the principle of free, fair and just elections,” the statement said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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