NEC Bars Rong Chhun from Running for Election

Photo from Rung Chhun's Facebook page.

PHNOM PENH – Rong Chhun, vice-president of the Candlelight Party (CP), was barred by the National Election Committee (NEC) from being the party’s candidate in Kandal province for the upcoming 7th general election.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said in a May 9 letter to Party President Teav Vannol that CP, which is Cambodia’s main opposition party, has to correct three shortcomings in its application to compete in the election.

It gave the party five days to comply with NEC’s requirements and make the appropriate changes.

Nytha first said that Rong Chhun cannot run to become a member of parliament as has been convicted to two years in prison and has not entirely served his sentence yet, which disqualifies him for the election.

He added that NEC received confirmation from the Ministry of Justice that Chhun was not yet legally eligible.

According to CP’s list, Rong Chhun was the first candidate in Kandal province.

“The party has to put a new number-one candidate for the province,” read the letter.

Chhun was arrested at the end of July 2020 after issuing a statement in which he said that Cambodia was ceding territory to Vietnam along the border in Tbong Khmum province.

On Aug. 18, 2021, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced him to two years in prison on charges of incitement and ordered him to pay a first fine of 2 million riel (approximately $490) and another fine of 400 million riel (around $98,000) to the Joint Committee on Border Affairs. The latest was jointly paid with other activists also found guilty of incitement alongside Chhun.

He was released on bail in November 2021 and joined the Candlelight Party on Jan. 31, 2023.

Shortly after the letter’s release, CP’s Spokesperson Kim Sour Phirith said Chan Cheng, who was number 2 on the list will be moved to the first place, to take over Rong Chhun’s candidacy.

In its letter, the NEC also requires the opposition party to provide the party’s certificate of registration from the Ministry of Interior, which is certified by the capital, province, municipality and district administrations.

CP claimed that the original version of the document disappeared when its headquarters were raided in 2017, and that the Interior Ministry has so far declined to provide them with a new copy.

Finally, the NEC asked for a receipt issued by the General Department of the National Treasury justifying the payment of 15 million riel (about $3750) to the NEC, which corresponds to the fees legally required to compete in the ballot.

On May 7, the Candlelight Party submitted the required documents and the list of parliamentary candidates to contest in the 7th National Election, which will be held on July 23.

A total of 20 political parties have registered candidates for the ballot, including 11 that have been officially recognized by the NEC.

The Candlelight Party and eight others are under NEC’s scrutiny.

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