(Phnom Penh): There is no secret in this world! On 10 April 2018, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) based in Bangkok issued an ironic press release claiming it had not been aware of the creation of the Election Situation Room and has not interfered in the Cambodia’s elections. If the claim was true, this would be a wash-off and would reveal controversies among the members of ANFREL and their withdrawal from these dirty plans organized by some members of its board of directors. Some other members of the board who have genuine independence and neutrality did not wish to see some opportunists misuse ANFREL for political gains which had been done before by some members. Under its structure, ANFREL has members as civil societies from various countries in Asia – amongst which Cambodia has COMFREL and NICFEC, whose mission focus on election monitoring.

Recently, there were leaks by ANFREL’s staff that since the Election Situation War Room which had been created during the election in 2013 and the Commune/Sangkat election in 2017 would no longer exist in Cambodia, due to the fact that the Cambodian Ministry of Interior had called it unlawful and had not allowed it to continue its operation; hence, this Situation War Room would have to be relocated to Bangkok. Mr. KOUL Panha – Executive Director of COMFREL – was appointed as the new president of ANFREL in addition to his current position at COMFREL which had earlier decided to allocate a space office to be used as the Situation War Room by civil society organizations from Cambodia. Not only did Mr. KOUL Panha engaged in this, but also Mr. KOUY Bunroeun – former Vice-President of the National Election Committee (NEC) – was reported to have been working closely with Mr. KOUL Panha and many others in order to make plans to interfere in the process of the upcoming election under the advice and order of their foreign patrons, group of banned politicians and traitors living overseas who have been working in conspiracy to destroy the supreme interests of the Cambodia nation and its people.

If ANFREL denies its involvement in any plot to interfere in the election affairs in Cambodia, what is the level of its non-involvement? How about Mr. KOUL Panha, who is very well-known to have caused trouble and panic aimed at interfering, damaging and destroying the past elections and who is also the current president of ANFREL? And how about NICFEC, as ANFREL’s member, which cooperated with COMFREL in issuing fake reports on Cambodia’s elections? How could leaders and members of the two organizations be very sure that they will not use ANFREL’s influence to fulfill their duties and to conceal their plots in order to meddle, disrupt, and discredit the elections in Cambodia scheduled to be held on 29 July, 2018, including their support for the Election Situation War Room which they had successfully created during the past July 2013 General Election as well as the June 2017 Commune/Sangkat Elections?

Recalling the past elections, Mr. KOUL Panha and COMFREL as well as some international civil society organizations claimed that they were independent, neutral and professional, but in reality these organizations used the different strategy and manoeuvers to serve the political interests of the opposition party by acting hand in gloves with some foreign organizations so as to distort facts and fake data aiming at intoxicating the public and damaging the elections’ environment. A case in point was that they rejected the past election result by producing fake data that 1.25 million voters were not on the voters’ list. NDI also also came up with another fake data that 1.4 million voters were not on the voters’ list, which pointed out the similarities between the two organizations. Moreover, one day before the polling day which was a Cool-off period, COMFREL released a false statement that the black ink used to identify voters who have already voted could be washed off within minutes. This was the first time that the issue pertaining to ink was raised before the 2013 election.

The claim was widely spread and misled the public to believe that each voter could cast more than one ballot. This was a psychological attack on the public so as to affect their election decision, provide sympathy to vote for the opposition party, or cause the public to put a question mark on the integrity of the electoral process and its result because they were told and they believed that the CPP was rigging the election. This plan was prearranged and was merely made one day before the election in order to assist the opposition party to win the election, or it would be used as an excuse for the opposition party to mobilize its supporters and activists to rise up and protest against the election results if defeated. In fact, this ink has been acknowledged to have been of top quality and has been used in elections in various countries such as India, Afghanistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa and Nigeria etc….

The day after the ballot counting of the 2013 election, COMFREL – which is headed by Mr. KOUL Panha – based on its own calculations, announced that the CPP had won 49.49% of the total votes and the CNRP had won 43.05%, making the CPP and the CNRP secure 67 seats and 56 seats, respectively. The miscalculation of a 1-seat margin by COMFREL resulted from a miscalculation of election result in Kratie Province. COMFREL could have calculated the total seats won by each political party through Forms 1104 which COMFREL’s representatives had received from election offices or through Forms 1102 posted at election offices. COMFREL had announced the election result which contradicted the election results which were planned to reject. This announcement had been published on various media outlets’ websites, and this news had already been issued in the Cambodia Daily Newspaper. COMFREL immediately removed the announced figures from its website in order to defend the liability of the CNRP’s fabricated election results claiming CNRP won the election.

In almost every public forum, the opposition party used COMFREL's and NDI’s fabricated data mentioning that the NEC had deleted millions of voters’ names from the voter lists as a reason for the CNRP’s loss. The CNRP leadership namely, SAM Rainsy and KEM Sokha, manipulated the election results that the CPP won the election due to fraud, and they alone were acting on behalf of voters to find justice. This party incited and mobilized people to join a demonstration called “ mass demonstration of the voters’ will”. It was later discovered that this demonstration was really a plan to go against the government and was meant to topple the legitimate state authority; if it was successful, they would lead the government in a non-democratic manner. This ill-intended plan is still in existence.

Civil society led by KOUL Panha also comes up with plan to organize more and larger anti-government movement to add pressure on the Phnom Penh Government, the main aim of which is to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling and consequently, allowing the defunct CNRP to revive, as well as to remove the political rights’ ban on former 118 politicians of this defunct party and to allow them to participate in the election. ANFREL led by KOUL Panha, is publicly criticizing the National Election Committee (NEC) by stating that the latter is not a reliable entity since there are no CNRP representatives. These civil society organizations will be used as a shield to evaluate the electoral process so as to discredit the value and effectiveness of NEC performance. And these are only their tactical moves before they could proceed to manipulate, exaggerate and fabricate data as well as to spread misinformation and disinformation on the electoral process in Cambodia. They pretend to care and pay attention to the transparent, fair, neutral, and reliable election, and yet the reality is that they make these allegations as a stepping stone for the opposition party to use it so as to create chaos and pretext to launch protest and to reject the election result leading ultimately to the mass movement or people’s power to overthrow the legitimate regime and its leadership through color revolution. Based on the source from ANFREL’s staff, currently ANFREL has already received sufficient funds to begin the preparation and execution of these plans.

Pursuant to the additional role of KOUL Panha as President of ANFREL, it is crystal clear that all past actions carried out by KOUL Panha and COMFREL undoubtedly do not serve in any way the Cambodia’s interest, but on the contrary, they are merely acting under the command of some western foreign power who not only do not want the Cambodian people to live in peace, but also they forcefully persist to push Cambodia to accept a so-called perfect democracy which even in their own countries could not realize. And this constitutes another undeniable proof that some western countries that used to meddle into the internal affairs of Cambodia have not yet given up their ill-intended plan and plot to topple the legitimate state authority or its leadership whom they are not satisfied with. The new situation war room of Koul Panha-led-ANFREL enjoys the political and funding support from outside Cambodia. This war room is nothing but a continuation of the ill-intended plan against Cambodia and its people in the service of foreign interest. The new strategy of staying behind the scene to pull the string that they employ is to use some pro-opposition-local civil society organizations which have received financial and advisory support from USAID, specially from the unregistered intelligence mechanism named IDI (Inclusive Development International) just to name a few, with the ultimate goal of disrupting, interfering, boycotting and discrediting the Cambodian General Election process to be held on 29 July, 2018.

Therefore, in order to prove their righteousness by not being involved in the plan to interfere, disrupt, and discredit this election in Cambodia, ANFREL has to stand up against any individual, group of people or civil society who dare to speak out that affects its reputation. However, with the leakage of this confidential information leading ANFREL to baselessly reject it through its statement which was prepared by KOUL Panha-led-COMFREL, it is nothing but tantamount to use a winnowing basket to hide a dead elephant whereas the truth is that their plan and plot of conspiracy to interfere, disrupt and discredit the election are still underway under the same pretext of democracy and a just, free, and fair election. But one must always bear in mind that the perpetrators of these acts under a country which is in the process of strengthening the rule of law must be held accountable.

By Pol Peanrin
Political Researcher
Phnom Penh, 11 April 2018