|Xinhua | 24 April 2013
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the kingdom's main opposition party, staged a non-violent protest on Wednesday to call for reforms within the National Election Committee (NEC) ahead of a general election in July.
Some 2,000 opposition supporters gathered at the capital's Freedom Park, and hundreds of security forces were deployed around the Park to safeguard protesters and to prevent them from marching into the street.
Kem Sokha, CNRP's vice-president, said at the event that the peaceful demonstration was to demand the change of components of the NEC, saying that the current NEC has affiliations with the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"The NEC is not neutral, it has a bias towards the ruling party," he told the gathering. "We gather here today is to demand reforms at the NEC to ensure a free and fair election in July."
According to a petition delivered to the NEC via a representative at the event, the protesters urged the NEC to accept the recommendations of Surya P. Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Cambodia, and called for an audit of the national voter list, which has come under fire due to a handful of critical reports on its alleged inaccuracy and lack of transparency.
In October, Subedi presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, urging the Cambodian authorities to implement reforms to ensure that the forthcoming general election is free and fair.
Kem Sokha warns that he will lead a larger protest if the government and the NEC do not provide an appropriate solution to the demand.
"This is just the start. Peaceful strikes will be bigger if there is no solution to the demand," he said.
Tep Nytha, NEC's Secretary General, said it was not new that the opposition party demanded the change of the NEC's components.
"The NEC's leadership and members were not selected by the NEC, but by the Interior Ministry and the government with the approval from the Parliament in October last year. All selection procedures were done in accordance with the law," he told Xinhua over telephone on Wednesday.
He denied that the NEC sides with the ruling party, saying that the committee is independent and does everything in accordance with the law.
Cambodia is scheduled to hold a general election on July 28. Some 9.67 million Cambodians are eligible to cast their ballots in the forthcoming election.
Political analysts forecast that the ruling CPP of Prime Minister Hun Sen will dominantly win the upcoming election.
Late last month, Hun Sen also predicted that his party would win at least two-thirds majority in the election.
Hun Sen, 62, has been in power for 28 years and vowed to stay in the office until he is 90.
In the last election in 2008, the CPP won 90 seats out of the 123 parliamentary seats, while the opposition totally won 29 seats, the royalist Funcinpec Party won 2 seats and the Norodom Ranariddh Party 2 seats.