Some 50 people in Kampong Cham province’s Tbong Khmum district were summoned to a pagoda on Monday morning to receive their promised pay-offs for votes they cast for the ruling party in the previous day’s election – but only after swearing an oath before the pagoda spirit that they actually did.
Runn Sophea, the deputy district governor in Tbong Khmum, confirmed the payments to the Post yesterday, while denying that villagers had been made to swear an oath.
According to local villagers, all of whom asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, village chiefs and their subordinates had passed out money that had been handed down from higher levels of the party leadership, with 10,000 riel ($2.50) going to each villager who swore the oath and 20,000 riel going to the chiefs themselves for organising the vote.
“The people asked [villagers] to swear that half their body would die if they had not voted for the CPP,” said one villager. “I did not take the oath, because I did not vote for them and the pagoda spirit is very effective, but some people took the money, because they had voted for the CPP.”
Another villager who said he was called to claim the money, said the oath-taking ceremony was meant to identify Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters.
“In the law, it says the election is secret, but how secret is it?” he asked, adding that oaths were taken to find out “exactly who voted for the CNRP in order to easily watch them”.
Deputy district governor Sophea, a Cambodian People’s Party appointee, denied any such conspiracy.
“Giving money is just to encourage them because they voted for the CPP, and after the election, Peam Chilaing commune was won by the CPP,” he said.
Provincial Comfrel official Neang Savath said that instances of payments made after Election Day had cropped up in two districts, and that the oath-taking constituted intimidation.
“Forcing people to swear is a threat, and it is an illegal act that someone must be held responsible for before the law,” he said.