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Rong Chhun let off with warning

Rong Chhun let off with warning

Election administrator Rong Chhun was issued a warning yesterday not to partake in activities that could be perceived as breaching the neutrality of his membership of the National Election Committee.

Chhun attended Labour Day marches, organised by unions but also attended by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party MPs, on Friday, prompting the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to issue a statement threatening it would “take action” against the former union boss if he did not respect the “neutrality” of the NEC.

Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman and member, said following a three-hour closed-door meeting of NEC members yesterday that no formal action would be taken against Chhun over his attendance at the rallies.

“The meeting was to remind all NEC members that we must carefully avoid conducting activities that affect public opinion, as it affects the independence and neutrality of the NEC,” he told reporters.

“All NEC members expressed determination to make efforts to carry out their duties according to the laws, regulations and election procedure, to ensure that the NEC is independent and neutral.”

Puthea, however, would not comment on whether the NEC would sanction Chhun if he continued to attend similar events in the future.

Chhun, the former head of the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association, said that all NEC members were subject to the letter of the law when it comes to taking part in public events. He has previously said that he was entitled to attend the May Day rallies as they are part of an international celebration.

“In fact, everything depends on the law. All [NEC] leaders have agreed to take the [NEC] law as a basis for action,” he said. “I have followed the law. No one is above the law.”

He added that he would continue to attend similar events in the future unless it was specifically banned under the law.

CPP spokesmen Sok Eysan and Suos Yara, who issued the statement about Chhun, declined to comment yesterday. In the CPP statement, Yara said Chhun’s presence at the marches showed a clear conflict of interest as CNRP politicians were also there.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith dismissed the allegations, saying Chhun was “not involved in any political propaganda” and could attend in a personal capacity without breaking NEC rules.

The NEC is comprised of four candidates chosen by the CNRP – including Chhun – and four by the CPP, as well as a “neutral” ninth member, Puthea.

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