Ministry Completes Initial Report on Election Monitor Group

An Interior Ministry team has finished an initial report on the activities of ad-hoc election monitoring group the Situation Room and it is now set to be reviewed by Minister Sar Kheng, officials said on Sunday.

Sparked by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders on Wednesday to investigate the legality of the NGO consortium, which he accused of breaching laws on NGO registration and fomenting a “color revolution,” Mr. Kheng said a group of ministry experts met on Thursday and Friday to assess the issue.

Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia director Koul Panha speaks during a press conference in Phnom Penh in March. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“We will look at the laws to see whether their activities were illegal or legal and then we will decide what we are going to do,” he said after leaving a meeting on Friday.

Pol Lim, a secretary of state at the ministry charged with leading the general administration department group, said he would likely receive the report today before forwarding it to Mr. Kheng.

“They gave suggestions,” he said, declining to elaborate on the committee’s conclusions.

The 40 NGO members of the Situation Room convened to coordinate commune election observation and evaluation, concluding with a statement last week that found the June 4 vote to fall short of being fully free and fair.

Members said last week that the Situation Room’s temporary status and lack of organizational structure meant it did not need to register with the ministry.

That claim was echoed on Friday in a statement endorsed by four regional civil society groups, including the Asia Democracy Network, which called the investigation “part of the ongoing harassment of civil society in Cambodia.”

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, and Moeun Tola, head of the labor rights group Central—both member organizations—are currently abroad, leading to speculation on Facebook that the leaders would not return to Cambodia while the investigation remained ongoing.

But both men said on Sunday that they were on pre-scheduled work trips and would return next week.

“I have no plan to flee the country because there are so many things to do there,” Mr. Tola wrote in a Facebook message on Sunday. “I’m not worried at all if the government obeys the law and it is ridiculous to allege the Situation Room as the base of color revolution.”

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