SIGNS OF THE TIMES
An election worker places the logo of the CPP into the 35th slot during a random
drawing for placement on the July 26 ballots. Funcinpec drew the 34th position.
THE Cambodian People's Party has for months been orchestrating a sophisticated plan
to dominate the electoral machinery up to and after the July polling date.
The party's electoral architect is Standing Committee member Say Chhum, a former
party political bureau member in 1988 and a 13-year veteran of the CPP's internal
Say Chhum's blueprint - approved by party vice chairman Hun Sen and chairman Chea
Sim - advocates no illegalities, but is thorough, pervasive and well-funded.
The 154-page plan, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, was originally distributed
at the CPP congress held earlier this year.
The CPP's strategy rests on the interpretation that it was covertly and systematically
usurped from power by an international conspiracy in 1993. Say Chhum contends that
UNTAC committed ballot box fraud and allowed multiple voting; recruited 50,000 Cambodian
returnees sympathetic to the opposition into positions of influence, while relegating
SoC supporters to menial tasks; and ran a partisan media campaign and registration
process against the CPP.
Say Chhum's 1998 campaign calls for similar influence to be wielded instead by the
CPP - short of fraud - to stop a repeat of the perceived trickery which defeated
it in 1993.
The plan calls for party members to guard ballot boxes; to place themselves in all
levels of electoral commissions and administrative offices; and to organize intensive
registration/membership drives and voting campaigns. The plan insists on the CPP
winning 73 parliamentary seats, with big gains over its 1993 results in Kampong Cham,
Takeo, Battambang, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
The CPP boasts of having signed up around 190,000 people (70% of voters) in Kampong
Speu from its thumb-printing membership campaign by cell leaders. Kandal, Preah Vihear
and Svay Rieng are all above 60% penetration. In Kratie, Koh Kong and Banteay Meanchey,
the CPP has been less successful, achieving less than 40%.
Countrywide, the CPP has "signed up" more than 3.1 million of the 5.5 million
potential voters, not including military or police. These people must be "encouraged"
to register and vote, along with their families. Up till February the CPP leadership
was still uncertain whether these party numbers were being correctly reported by
provincial chiefs, or were indeed enough to swing the election.
After months of politicizing local NGOs, the party now believes that a slight majority
now supports it, adding that fewer than one in five local NGOs is neutral.
The party also maintains that some international NGOs are politically sympathetic
toward it, and reports encouraging results in recruitment tactics among the Buddhist
and Cham communities.
Tactical political alliances have been set up with 11, and possibly as many as 13,
"opposition" parties, with five more still "uncertain". However,
Hun Sen and other leaders remain unconvinced as to their true loyalties.
Earlier this year, the CPP's Permanent Committee moved to stop some parties that
had allied themselves with CPP from recruiting CPP members as their own. The committee
sent an order to city and provincial offices to "block these parties' activities".
The party machinery is gearing up for change after what it predicts will be a successful
July poll. Rumors are already circulating of possible promotions for National Police
Chief Hok Lundy and Kampong Cham Governor Hun Neng, Hun Sen's brother - possibly
within the Interior and Defense ministries. Analysts predict that Interior Minister
Sar Kheng will be further marginalized.
One CPP source says that the "party moderates" - of whom Kheng is seen
as a figurehead - have been subordinated "and now it's a dangerous time to speak
out... the hardliners have played their last card and there's no turning back".
Some Funcinpec sources are now privately conceding that they don't want the CPP to
win fewer than 61 seats, fearing violent consequences.
"This is what the international community are paying for," said one politician.
"It may not be illegal but it's amoral. They're paying for elections that will
result in more dictatorial powers for one man. The only thing that may stop Hun Sen
is the economic situation - nothing else. Even [former Indonesian President] Suharto
couldn't fight people with empty stomachs."
Human rights and World Bank sources have also indicated to the Post that hoarding
of rice - both by local people and provincial governors - has been occurring, driving
up market prices.
The CPP has insisted on a Cambodian-run election, with international participation
limited to observer status only, "because some countries seek to be in a position
of election management [whereby]... they would destroy us."
The CPP realized the importance of having the party select the National Election
Commission, depending on them to be "just" and to prevent any "tricks...
That selection process has been vetted by the CPP down to provincial and communal
According to the CPP's blueprint, party officials must also be recruited in all levels
of "election offices", and be trained as experts in electoral and other
related laws. The plan stressed, however, that it was important not to use public
servants to avoid any accusation of bias.
CPP members should also specialize in computer work, data control, voter education,
examining voter IDs during the ballot and registration, ballot counting and observation.
The CPP also set out to encourage the formation of the Constitutional Council, as
it similarly did the NEC. But the party's tactics of persuasion backfired this week
with the abrupt departure to Bangkok of 92-year-old Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum, the council's
Cocsal Chhum said he was pressured by "very high-ranking government officials"
who picked him up from his house without telling him of their purpose, to sign a
letter [May 29] convening the first meeting of the Constitutional Council. "I
have since renounced that letter... My view, directed by my conscience, is that several
of the supposed members of the Constitutional Council have been appointed illegally
and that the meeting [June 3], and any meeting with these members, is invalid,"
Despite such thorough organization, the CPP campaign plan insists that all the steps
it is taking are done to "insure a free and fair election".
The overwhelming presence of CPP cell leaders at registration sites will continue,
according to the plan, at the polls on July 26.
Cell leaders have been asked to compare registration numbers to polling day numbers,
again to "prevent tricks" from the opposition.
Party members must be present at vote counting and during the transportation of ballot
boxes to the communes.
The CPP has set aside 50,000 riel a month for five officials at district and commune
level, and 40,000 riel a month for a village official.
Each provincial party office is paid 30 million riel a month and each district office
one million riel, with the same allotted for the 80 CPP "campaign teams"
distributed around Cambodia to "pay for small gifts".
Opposition parties calculate the elections are costing the CPP $2.5m a month. CPP
sources say that figure is too low.