Village chiefs are intimidating villagers they think will not vote for the ruling
Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and have refused to give them information leaflets
for the coming commune election, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said on September 5.
The CPP won 99.9 percent of the 13,796 village chief positions in the country in
an election earlier this year in which only members of the CPP-dominated commune
councils were eligible to vote.
For future elections, voter cards used for previous elections cannot be used. Electoral
rolls will be published on September 29. An elector must check the roll between October
1 and 20 to ensure his or her name and other information is correctly on the roll.
Citizens whose name is not on the roll must register using a national ID card or
other legal document.
During August village chiefs were supposed to distribute Voter Information Notices
explaining the process. Rainsy says failure to distribute the information may result
in the loss of voting rights for some people.
"We have learned that the CPP has used the village chiefs to work in the early-stage
manipulation to win the commune council elections," Rainsy told hundreds of
Sam Rainsy Party activists from across the country at party headquarters in Phnom
Penh. "Now we understand why the CPP wants to control the village chiefs."
His allegations were echoed by Koul Panha, executive director of a local election
monitoring NGO, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL),
which has been scrutinizing the registration process. Panha told the Post on September
6 that the role of the village chief was not independent.
He said village chiefs are CPP activists and have worked to strengthen their party
before the election at the same time as they have been working in their official
capacity for the National Election Committee (NEC), which COMFREL also accuses of
bias towards the CPP.
"We found that people who do not support the CPP were denied election information,
and some were forced to swear oaths to vote for the CPP," Panha said.
Rainsy told the Post in August that results of the 2007 commune elections and the
2008 national election were being decided now through the registration process.
He said a month was not long enough for SRP activists to go from door to door making
sure everybody knew what they had to do to be able to vote.
"We need to ensure that eligible voters can register regardless of which political
party they might vote for," Rainsy said.
He has appealed to donors and civil society to help protect the rights of the voters
who are being discriminated against.
Rainsy said that since the election registration process began in August more than
two million people have not received registration leaflets to which they are entitled.
He said the CPP was deliberately creating obstacles for voters who did not support
"We lack the human and financial resources to counter the CPP, which is using
the tools of the state to work for its political ends," Rainsy said. "We
are trying to ensure that all people can exercise their right to vote, because this
is in the interest of democracy."
A divergent view of the electoral registration campaign was offered by Tep Nytha,
Secretary General of NEC. He said the campaign to give election information to voters
had gone smoothly and the results had been good.
He said the registration information process had continued into September and had
reached 65 percent of the total 6.7 million voters. So far four million leaflets
had been distributed. The final figure will be known on September 18. After that
date until September 29 people who had not received a leaflet could go to their commune
office and ask for one.
Nytha denied Rainsy's allegation that there was political discrimination during the
"In the 2003 elections the highest vote for one political party was only 2.5
million votes, so as we have already distributed four million leaflets, it is clear
there has been no political discrimination during the campaign," Nytha said.