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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No clean hands in main parties' electioneering

No clean hands in main parties' electioneering

Using the King's image, confiscating voter registration cards and making false

claims: all three main parties have fallen foul of election rules said election

monitors and the National Election Committee (NEC).

The Sam Rainsy Party

ran into trouble over its use of the King's image on an election leaflet. Three

thousand of a total 30,000 leaflets were seized by commune election committees

in various areas when the SRP was distributing them. The SRP denied it had

broken election law.

"We used the King's photograph because we wanted to

clarify for Cambodian people that the SRP respects the King, because Funcinpec

has for a long time accused SRP of being a republican party," said Eng Chhay

Eang, SRP secretary-general.

The NEC disagreed, saying use of the King's

image to boost party credibility was banned. The NEC also issued a letter

January 20 calling on leaders of the parties to stop broadcasting messages

deemed critical of individuals in other parties or the parties themselves. The

reason, the NEC said, was to prevent incitement.

The Post has learned

that Sam Rainsy and the president of Funcinpec, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, had

disagreed over using the King's image before campaigning began. Both parties

know the King is well-regarded in rural areas where most of the country's voters

live.

Eang said the SRP had used the pictures of Rainsy with the King to

clarify to the public that Rainsy's father was not against King Norodom Sihanouk

50 years ago. Rainsy's father was a prominent politician before his death in the

1960s.

Prom Nhean Vicheth, media chairman at the NEC, criticized all

three main political parties for violating campaigning rules. Most of the cases,

he said, were recorded in Kampong Cham, home to the majority of pre-election

violence. In an apparent reference to the SRP's use of the King's picture

Vicheth said action would be taken against "a party" for violating Chapter 8 of

the commune election law.

"[The party] which uses the picture of the

King or the Queen during campaigning - that is objectionable not only to the

NEC, but also to common citizens. No one is allowed to exploit the King or his

activities for political gains," he said.

Other violations included

breaches of Article 128 of the election law, which prohibits parties from

inciting violence or affecting another party's campaign. The SRP chant "Crush

the dictator" repeated at some campaigns apparently breached this

provision.

Vicheth hinted that Funcinpec had also crossed the line by

claiming some NGOs had set up in Cambodia at the party's behest.

"I don't

think the NGOs come here at the invitation of the political parties. They come

to work for over 11 million Cambodians," Vicheth said.

Under Article 240

of the commune election law, the parties can be fined 5-10 million riel, and

either the party or the candidate can be removed from running in the commune.

The NEC said it planned to take action along this line against the erring

parties.

Meanwhile Sunai Phasuk, political analyst for Asian Network for

Free Elections, told a press conference January 28 that Anfrel was concerned at

the CPP's collection of thumb prints, retaining of some voters' registration

cards, and forced drinking of oath water.

"The activities have been

carried out by local CPP officers in almost every village that we visited in the

nine provinces," said Phasuk.

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