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Directive causes concern

Directive causes concern

THE Interior Ministry has issued a directive to provincial administrations and law

enforcement agencies asking them to watch for alleged supporters of the outlawed

Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) as part of its security plan for February 2002 commune

elections.

A senior ministry official told the Post October 11 that the directive was issued

amid fears that some CFF supporters "could create mischief during the electoral

process in order to discredit the government".

Human rights groups were concerned that this could be used as a tool to exclude opposition

candidates and administrators.

Dr Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said: "I

feel that they [the arrests] are being used to intimidate the public at large and

opposition in particular, the idea being not to let the opponents engage in the electoral

process. The authorities know that fear will drive them [the opposition] underground."

Kek Galabru, founding president of human rights NGO Licadho, said her concern was

to see legal procedure strictly observed and ensure that the process of identifying,

arresting and trying suspects was transparent. She said this had not yet happened

with the 53 alleged CFF members arrested so far this year.

"We have not been given access to any of the accused and don't know how many

of them have legal representation. We have not even seen the arrest warrants,"

she said.

Co-Minister for the Ministry of the Interior, Sar Kheng, who also chairs the committee

constituted by Prime Minister Hun Sen for ensuring security of candidates and voters

during the commune elections, also issued detailed guidelines to provincial authorities

detailing the implementation of the security plan.

The directive states that each province is responsible for implementing the plan

to maintain peace and harmony down to the commune level. The guidelines follow a

request from the National Election Committee (NEC) asking for security measures to

protect voters and candidates.

Meanwhile, the NEC has stripped its provincial and commune counterparts of the power

to bar a candidate from electoral fray.

The PECs and CECs had the power to bar the entire list of candidates if even one

was disqualified. In its revised directive, the NEC said the local committees would

have to bring the case to it if they felt a candidate did not measure up to the criteria

laid down under the commune election law. The election observers were worried that

the powers could be abused.

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