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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Squeeze on voters by CPP alleged

Squeeze on voters by CPP alleged

CPP village chiefs and commune authorities are using intimidation tactics to pressure

voters into divulging information that violates their right to a secret ballot, according

to an election monitoring organization (EMO).

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and

Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said there were cases of authorities going door

to door, asking people for their name and their number on their voter identification

card. In some instances, the voter identification card was seized.

"This forces and pressures people to vote for the CPP," said Puthea. "We

have made an effort to explain to people that during the election process, the vote

is carried out secretly. Now the voter thinks it is not secret because they think

that since the authorities have the number on their ID card, they will check later

to see how they voted."

Puthea told the Post Sept 24 that an estimated ten percent of the registered voters

had had their cards seized or their ID number taken down. He said that NICFEC monitoring

showed that this type of violation started when voter registration began July 21

and was still occurring.

The EMO said village chiefs were waiting outside registration stations. If a person

was using a 1998 election voter card to register, the village chiefs would take the

card and said they would not give it back until the voter promised to vote for them

[CPP].

NICFEC is planning to bring this issue before the National Election Committee (NEC).

"It seems that the NEC [hasn't been] responsible for maintaining the voter's

right not to be [intimidated]," said Puthea. "We do not know for sure whether

this is a strategy of the CPP or not, but I think that the authorities received the

order from high officials of the party. If no measures are taken against this irregularity,

people will hesitate to vote for who they really want to."

A high-ranking CPP official speaking on condition of anonymity to the Post Sept 25

denied the allegations. "They [the EMOs] are trying to create problems,"

the official said.

He said that this may be just a misunderstanding: some village chiefs and authorities

are visiting relatives to see if they are registered, which he thinks is normal.

"What is most important is the voter's rights. They can choose whatever political

party they like. No one would dare try to pressure the voter. Individual rights are

protected by the constitution," the official said.

Khmer Institute for Democracy Executive Director Dr Lao Mong Hay said he believed

some cases of voter intimidation had occured, but declined to comment further.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Eng Chhai Eang said that he thinks that CPP officeholders

have been trying to get the voter ID card numbers as part of their strategy to intimidate

voters.

"I am told by my supporters that they [the CPP] are telling people that if they

give them their voter ID number then it is easier for [CPP] later on to give rice

and food to that voter," said Eang.

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