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
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,"
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.