Independent election observers praised Sunday’s running of the nationwide commune elections as largely smooth and peaceful, even while noting a raft of problems, including unauthorized officials at polling sites, intimidated observers and soldiers being brought to vote at some polling stations by the truckload. Dubbed the “Situation Room,” the coalition of NGOs that teamed up to send some 14,000 observers across the country described the voting as “smooth, safe and peaceful” but marred by “some minor irregularities.” Recounting one of the day’s most flagrant breaches, Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said 12 observers across two communes in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district were pressured into abandoning their duties by local authorities.
“Authorities detained 12 of our observers and advised them to thumbprint contracts not to observe the elections,” he said at a news conference in Phnom Penh. “Our observers felt unsafe, so they decided not to do their jobs.”
Mr. Panha said the NGOs were still investigating the cases and that they had asked the government’s National Election Committee (NEC) to look into the claims as well.
He said the NGOs were also aware of 19 communes across five provinces—including Kompong Speu, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap—where some polling stations saw mostly soldiers casting ballots, raising suspicions that those communes were being deliberately stacked with votes for the ruling CPP.