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Association of Youth for State Reform rejects ANFREL’s report

In the name of the Association of Youth for State Reform, we categorically object the evaluation report of the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) that is baseless and fabricated, which does not reflect the current situation in Cambodia.

In a fifteen-page report, ANFREL had made its evaluation with fraudulent and political intent to serve the political agenda of the opposition groups such as:

1. ANFREL came to a conclusion by itself which contradicts the reality on the ground that all Cambodian citizens are not interested in the election following the dissolution of CNRP. This claim is entirely false. ANFREL – which is led by Mr. KOUL Panha as its Executive Director – must understand that following the arrest of Mr. KEM Sokha and the CNRP dissolution, the Cambodian people all over the country have been living and working in peace without any significant protest while investors including the Cambodian businessmen in general, are satisfied with such no protests or any other insecure and unstable activities as they used to do in the past. Accordingly, this is an indication that the Cambodian people comprehend and agree with the reasons that led to the former CNRP dissolution as contradicted to the expectation of the former leaders of CNRP which assumed that half of the Cambodian population would rise up to protest after this dissolution. In this regard, the prejudgement that ANFREL had come up that the Cambodian people are not interested in the upcoming election on 29 July 2018 is completely false.

2. ANFREL arbitrarily concluded that freedom of election has been severely affected due to the CNRP dissolution. This assumption does indeed undermine the rights of twenty (20) registered political parties that are preparing themselves to compete in the upcoming election. ANFREL must bear in mind that only eight (8) political parties took part in the 2013 National Election, whereas in 2018, there are 20 political parties that have registered with the National Election Committee (NEC). This proved that there is a broader competition than in the 2013 election. Therefore, ANFREL’s assumption does heavily insult the twenty other political parties because ANFREL wrongly praises only one political party that trampled the law under its feet. 3. ANFREL has pointed out about the decline of independent news reporting, by using the 2 cases of Cambodia Daily and Radio Free Asia. This point is also falsely made against the truth. ANFREL must understand that both newspapers shut down themselves due to their large taxdebt not due to the Royal Government’s closure. In terms of tax principle, this is the legal obligation that all business entities must fulfill and can neither avoid nor evade it regardless of which countries the taxpayers belong to. Furthermore, Cambodia currently has several hundred news reporting organizations, such as newspapers, radio, television, and online news reporting outlets. Therefore, when ANFREL picked only two news outlets with complex legal issues to link it with the current voting environment means that its report conclusion is baseless and deprived of professionalism.

4. ANFREL quoted the words from the anonymous sources who are only a worker and a civil servant or a so-called fake news fabricated by ANFREL to confirm that they are under pressure and their salaries could not be paid if this worker or civil servant will not go to vote. This is purely a complete distortion which cannot be accepted. Could the statement made by two anonymous individuals or the highly likely stories cooked up by ANFREL be used to reflect the reality of the whole country as stated in the ANFREL’s report? This is undoubtedly a very shameful act. Looking back to the past, Mr. KOUL Panha – who led COMFREL – had also fabricated similar stories in pre and post 2013 Election and then later on, the NEC had revealed the truth to the contrary .

5. ANFREL gave reason of non-participation in the election observation from some local civil society organizations such as COMFREL of Mr. KOUL Panha and its ally, NICFEC, as a justification of a loss of confidence in the election. This is a baseless assumption that carries no value. Please bear in mind that there are a large number of national and international entities and prestigious personalities as well as friendly countries which will send their observers to monitor the upcoming election. Therefore, by enumerating only a handful organizations to represent the whole picture is obviously a conclusion which is unprofessional and completely ill intentioned.

6. Based on its minor argumentations which are groundless, and especially with its large number of allegations are mainly fabricated by itself, ANFREL dares to shamelessly jump into a conclusion that the upcoming 29 July 2018 election will not be held in a free, fair and just manner. This is truly a false conclusion with the clear purpose of misleading the public opinion in order to serve the opposition’s objective to disrupt and destroy the election.

7. On behalf of a local civil society organization, we call on Mr. KOUL Panha and ANFREL to put an end to their dirty maneuvers and attempt to destroy the Cambodia's election. We clearly note that the upcoming July election will be held in a broadly competitive environment with 20 registered political parties. Until now, those political parties have freely acted with the full facilitation from the government authorities without any hindrance or problem. Furthermore, the traditional and new social media in Cambodia are also vibrant and free to perform their job. Last but not least, this upcoming election is also to be organized with the assistance and support from the international community.

8. With the main aim of promoting democracy in Cambodia, we strongly encourage and urge the NEC to continue to perform its professional task on the basis of its Election-related- legislation so as to avoid any attempt by anyone or entity to disrupt and destroy the election. We strongly believe that thanks to the favorable environment of the election coupled with with this broad competition among the 20 Political Parties, the Cambodian people will go to vote in massive number in line with the appeal launched by our most sacred Majesty The King which contradicts the baseless and deceptive report issued by ANFREL.