PEAM KRAUV, Kampong Cham - Here, in the birthplace of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen,
all was quiet on voting day. A bit too quiet for the village Polling Station Commission
(PSC) staff, it seemed.
A PSC member stepped out of empty station 1486 at 1:30pm. He brought a handwritten
list of names to a bespectacled man - with no NEC identification - sitting in the
shade with the rest of the polling staff.
"There are some people who didn't come to vote," the PSC worker said deferentially,
indicating the list.
"This one I know, this one I don't know," the man with glasses said, pointing
at the names. Scowling at one, he asked irritably: "His wife already voted.
What about the husband?"
A bystander scurried off.
Asked who the man was, the PSC member replied: "He is Kao Vong, the village
chief - oh, no, I mean, he is the head of security for the village."
Soon afterwards, the oversize demonstration ballot posted at the doorway to the PSC
began to flap in the wind, calling attention to a brown mark on the lower right-hand
side. Number 35 - Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) - had been marked on all
three demonstration posters at the station.
"Oh, the young monks did that," said PSC chief Saing Keang, gesturing to
the nearby pagoda. "We put these up two days ago - what can we do?"
Told of the incidents, National Election Committee member Tip Jahnvibol said election
regulations had been violated: the posters should have been removed, and the names
of non-voters should never have been publicized.
"It's intimidation; people should not be pressured," he said. "It's
a process that violates the spirit of free and fair elections."
Yet in this leafy riverside village of 642 registered voters, residents said they
made up their minds independently - though many admitted to favoring the party of
the hometown boy.
"Everybody here likes the CPP, but we are not sure - it is a secret vote, so
maybe some people have a different idea," said farmer Neng, who gave her age
as "about 43".
Villagers said that Funcinpec, the Sam Rainsy Party and the CPP had all braved the
bumpy, difficult track leading from the provincial capital, 55km to the southwest.
"Samdech Hun Sen did not come," said 67-year-old So Din, a farmer. "I
did not recognize them, but some [CPP] members came. They gave MSG, clothes and sarongs."
Hun Sen competed in the 1993 elections in his home province, but this time around
stood in Kandal.
"I voted for Samdech Hun Sen," said So Din, reaching for a thick cigarette
with his blackened finger. "I don't know the background [of the other parties]
or who they are. Samdech Hun Sen lived here since he was a child, so I had to vote
for him - last time too."
The elderly farmer, who has lived in the village all his life, not only remembered
Hun Sen as a boy - "his family was very, very poor... I'm not so sure if he
liked going to school or not" - but also voting in "three or four"
"It's all the same, I still go to vote," he said.
He said he took pride in the local boy made good: "It's a community. If we have
a person who is educated and becomes the Prime Minister, we are very proud."