Cambodia must address the capacity gaps within its electoral system to ensure freedom of speech and encourage debate among its political parties, a United Nations expert said today, urging the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure free and fair elections next year.
Special Rapporteur Surya P. Subedi, who just finished a six-day visit to the country, said that he was particularly concerned about access to mass media in the lead-up to the commune elections next year and the 2013 parliamentary elections.
“I have had concerns expressed to me that a number of political parties have been denied access to the mass media on an equal footing, or have encountered difficulties with local authorities when they try to claim their right to participate in a free and fair election campaign,” he said.
Mr. Subedi also noted that during his visit, he received allegations by several stakeholders claiming civil servants, military personnel and police members have campaigned for political parties using government resources. At the same time, he said State authorities assured him they would look into the allegations.
“I was assured that government will be instructing all personnel working in these particular groups that they should not participate in any political activities whilst working in their official capacities, which includes the use of government resources, and that neutrality is to be paramount.”
During his visit, Mr. Subedi met with government officials in charge of facilitating elections in the country, the national police, members of civil society, and members of various political parties, as well as citizens who have been affected by the human rights situation in the country.
Mr. Subedi said he would provide the government with concrete recommendations on how to address the capacity gaps. He is also due to present a report on his findings to the Human Rights Council in September next year.