Sar Kheng Asks Gov’t Officials to Remain Neutral in Upcoming Election

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Interior Minister Sar Kheng photographed at the Phnom Penh International Airport on February 3, 2022. (Interior Ministry)
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Interior Minister Sar Kheng has asked government officials to refrain from using state resources during the upcoming commune election and urged them to remain politically neutral. 

The minister released a letter last Friday asking government workers to be non-partisan and not conduct party activities during work hours and using state resources, such as budgetary allocations, vehicles and buildings. 

“Civil servants must not use the budget, materials, facilities, and transportation, which are the property of the state, to campaign for any party,” the letter said.

Som Sorida, a National Election Committee spokesperson, said the election body will take action against anyone using state funds or equipment during the upcoming election. 

Article 72 of the law on commune elections states that “civil servants, local authorities at all levels, members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, National Police and court officials” cannot influence the electoral process or use state buildings or offices, and can only engage in politicking after hours and without using their official uniforms. 

Sorida said the NEC can only issue fines or warnings, but cannot take legal action. 

“In general, the NEC accepts complaints if any person has enough evidence to prove that in the activities of political parties there was use of [state] property by any person,” he said. 

Korn Savang, an election monitor with Comfrel, said the NEC rarely punished polling agents or others for any violations of the rules, and that only civil society groups raised these issues. 

“In the past, despite these prohibitions, cases used to still occur,” he said. 

Savang added that the election can be free and fair only if all the rules and regulations are uniformly applied and adhered to by political parties. 

The commune election will be held on June 5, with the CPP and Candlelight Party having the most commune registrations of the 17 parties in the fray.

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