Civil Society Deeply Concerned by Actions Taken to Disrupt, Prevent and Halt Voter Registration Campaigns During Water Festival

Joint Organizations

November 25, 2016 - We, the undersigned civil society organizations, are outraged by actions taken by authorities to disrupt, prevent and halt voter registration education and dissemination activities undertaken by youth volunteers in Phnom Penh and the provinces during Water Festival, an annual Cambodian celebration (13, 14, 15 November 2016). Over 60 youth volunteers, including from PEP-Center, YRDP, KYSD, NICFEC, CPWP and SEPY, faced numerous challenges during the three days’ activities:

 Mixed police forces and para-police deployed for Phnom Penh’s Water Festival celebrations disrupted and prevented the campaign, despite the volunteers having a permission letter for education and dissemination activities from the Phnom Penh Municipality, by preventing them from using loudspeakers to encourage people to register.

 On 15 November, police forces deployed at Veal Preah Meru in Phnom Penh detained seven volunteer youths for about three hours, only releasing them after they agreed to thumbprint documents promising to stop the voter registration education and dissemination campaign. Authorities also confiscated the smartphones of two group leaders until they too agreed to thumbprint similar documents.

Civil society organizations appreciate the NEC’s cooperation efforts and interventions, including their provision of documents for the education and dissemination campaign. However, we are concerned the NEC did not defend free expression using loudspeakers which is a proven effective method of information dissemination.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, request for authorities at all levels across the country to cooperate fully with the NEC, civil society and political parties in campaigns to educate and disseminate information on voter registration as well as other information relating the election – including the use of loudspeakers, as used in voter registration campaigns during the opening periods of voter registration in September – to encourage the maximum number of people to register to vote.

This statement is endorsed by:
1. Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (COMFREL)
2. People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center)
3. Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC)
4. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)
5. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
6. Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

PDF format: Download full statement in English - Download full statement in Khmer
MP3 format: Listen to audio version in Khmer