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Fledgling campaigns accuse authorities of discrimination, harassment

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
LDP founder Khem Veasna directs party campaigners during a rally last year in Kandal province. Heng Chivoan

Fledgling campaigns accuse authorities of discrimination, harassment

As Sunday dawned and political parties entered the ninth day of the three-week campaign period in preparation for the July 29 national elections, claims of threats and intimidation seem to be the order of the day.

But the National Election Committee (NEC), which oversees the election process, blamed the claims on “a lack of coordination” between all those involved.

Despite this, the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) secretary general Sam Inn claimed on Monday that it was discriminated against during a rally in Phnom Penh.

Inn said party activists in two provinces – Ratanakkiri and Battambang – had also experienced “threats” and “obstruction” from security guards, who banned his party’s supporters from distributing leaflets.

Inn claimed his party had encountered problems since almost the start of the campaign season, which began on July 7.

On July 10, Yang Saing Koma, the GDP’s prime ministerial candidate, complained that traffic police did not assist during its parade in Phnom Penh.

He alleged that this was evidence of inconsistency when compared to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP) unimpeded rally in the capital two days earlier.

Inn said: “Over the nine days of election campaigning, the first problem occurred in Phnom Penh where we held a rally on July 10. Local authorities, especially the traffic police did not help us run our parade smoothly.

“In Ratanakkiri province, our activists were threatened when distributing leaflets. In Battambang province, village security guards threatened and banned them from doing the same in a village in Rokhakiri district.”

Inn claimed the GDP would stand down from the elections if it continued to face such issues or the situation worsened.

“If we keep facing such problems or things escalate, the GDP will seriously consider quitting the elections,” he said.

However, he said his party had met the Provincial Election Committee (PEC) and the Commune Election Committee (CEC) to discuss the issues and find solutions.

The League for Democracy Party (LDP) also claimed it faced obstacles while campaigning, including alleged “abuse of power” by local authorities to influence their activities.

LDP president Khem Veasna alleged: “CPP logos have been placed over ours. And that’s not all … the authorities even prevented us from campaigning at our headquarters, so [problems] have happened everywhere.

“We asked for permission to use loudspeakers [to broadcast political messages], but the commune authorities came and disrupted us everywhere, even though we had the relevant permissions.”

However, unlike the GDP, Veasna said the LDP would not quit the elections. “[We will not be intimidated by] threats. We will try our best to overcome [any problems],” he stressed.

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said his party had not encountered any of the issues the others claimed to have.

But it did experience some minor issues such as the use of police and military vehicles in some campaigning for the CPP, but they had since been addressed.

He said the other parties’ complaints were mere “excuses” as they already knew they were going to lose the elections.

“I conclude that this is their problem … after creating their parties, they very proudly said they will win the election, but during campaigning, it seemed that they received no support."

“So now they are claiming discrimination and blaming abuse [of power] from the authorities."

“I think [the complaints] are mere excuses. [The parties] looked at the situation and realised they cannot gain the support of the people and are facing failure."

“Also, it [GDP] wants to [pull out] before the elections in order to save face and reputation,” Eysan said.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said it had so far received only six complaints – from Ratanakkiri, Prey Veng and Kep provinces.

Four of those complaints, he said, were filed by the LDP and two by local authorities, but election officials said they had addressed them.

He said he regarded the problems spoken of as coming from “a lack of coordination” between the political parties, local authorities and election officials.

“As long as there is coordination, all the problems can be solved. The issues we have seen come down to this lack of coordination,” he said.

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