Rhona Smith’s demands for permission for a call for a boycott are violations of international and Cambodian laws
The National Election Committee (NEC) has thus far discharged its duty with professionalism. The NEC set up an updated and transparent voter list, registered twenty political parties, and conducted public education on the election process. The Cambodian election campaign is in full swing with all registered political parties actively campaigning for votes. Amidst these positive developments, Ms. Rhona Smith, the United Nations Rapporteur for human rights, issued a statement urging the Cambodian government to “clarify that calling for a boycott in a non-compulsory vote is permitted.”
Such a statement is disturbing and unacceptable as it violates both international laws and Cambodian laws. Cambodia is a sovereign country and should be allowed to conduct its own affairs according to its laws. Ms. Smith’s demand is interference in the internal affairs of Cambodia. Furthermore, it is absurd that the United Nations Rapporteur urges the Cambodian government to break its own election law passed by a democratically elected parliament. Like many democracies, Cambodia has a non-compulsory vote. In that context, it is the rights of Cambodians as an individual to abstain from voting. However, under the Cambodian Election Law “calling for a boycott” of an election is illegal. It is in effect an act of incitement with an objective of preventing eligible voters from voting. “Calling for a boycott” can discourage political parties from conducting campaign activities, as they are uncertain of voter turnout. This in turn undermines the democratic spirit of Cambodia. These acts are crimes punishable by law under Article 124 of the Cambodian Election Law. “Permitting calling for a boycott” also undermines the Cambodian Constitution. The Constitution stipulates that all eligible Cambodian citizens have the rights to choose their representatives through democratic elections. Therefore, calling for citizens to boycott the election will create “confusion” among voters who have rights to exercise their franchise. Such confusion undermines the fundamental rights of people to choose their government representatives. Furthermore, allowing a call for a boycott of the election could potentially cause political instability. Under the Cambodian constitution, a legitimate government is a government that is chosen by the people through multi-party elections. If the government permits the call for a boycott of the election, it will engage in promoting illegitimate government. People might not want to obey the rules and regulations set up by an unelected government.
It should be noted that the world condemned the Khmer Rouge who boycotted and called on the Cambodian people to boycott the United Nations sponsored the elections in 1993. At that time, the Cambodian electorate defied the Khmer Rouge call and voted for peace and development. Now it is the Rapporteur of the United Nations who joined the now-legally banned opposition CNRP to call for boycott of the elections. It is certain that Cambodian voters will defy this call on July 29 and will cast their vote for continuing peace and development.
Member of Parliament