Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hundreds flee reprisals; Hun Sen calls for calm

Hundreds flee reprisals; Hun Sen calls for calm

Hundreds flee reprisals; Hun Sen calls for calm

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flee.gif

BEATEN

Funcinpec activist Buon Reng, 49, from Prey Veng sits at Funcinpec HQ. He is one of hundreds who have fled their homes in fear since the elections.

"PHANNA" looks 13 but his eyes are old. He says he's 17, already a veteran

of fighting at O'Smach, and now he says a victim of post-election intimidation by

the CPP.

"After the election some people came to my house to threaten my family,"

Phanna (not his real name) said. Seven soldiers drove to his house in Kampong Cham

July 29 and shot at the Funcinpec sign in front.

He and his stepfather had only returned a few months before from fighting with the

Funcinpec resistance in O'Smach and the boy deeply hates the CPP military. His father

was killed by government soldiers in 1994.

After the threat he fled by taxi to Phnom Penh. When he pulled money from his pocket

to pay, his Funcinpec card fell out.

"Why did you join the Funcinpec party?" asked a stranger in a military

uniform.

Phanna replied: "Hun Sen is a killer!" - and the stranger proceeded to

beat him up.

The youth made his way to Funcinpec headquarters where party officials recorded his

story. He is now sheltering with a human rights organization which is trying to help

him find his family.

"He seems tough when he talks about the battlefield and heroics, but when I

talk to him about his mother his eyes fill with tears and he says, 'yeah, I really

miss her'," said a rights worker.

He thinks that since the shooting his stepfather has gone into hiding and he's not

sure where his mother is. He says the military men who shot the sign also arrested

his sister July 21 and took her to Phnom Penh, but he doesn't know where or why.

"I'm afraid to go and find her because I'm afraid I'll be arrested too,"

he said. He doesn't know what to do now, he added.

Phanna is just one of hundreds of people flooding into opposition party and human

rights offices to complain about post-election intimidation. Funcinpec said it had

received reports from 126 people; the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) more than 235.

Although rights workers say most of the reports concern threats, some are more serious.

A 20-year-old SRP election observer described being beaten into unconsciousness after

pointing out counting irregularities.

Speaking at an Aug 4 press conference at the SRP cabinet office, the youth said:

"During the counting procedure I noticed there was fraud... I complained to

the officials... They were not happy that I complained."

He said he was followed from the counting station by several men. He hid in a gas

station till they left, then ventured out and climbed on a moto-taxi wagon.

"One man dressed in a military uniform... told me to stop... All of a sudden

all of them came and surrounded the wagon," he said.

"So this is right?," he recalls them saying. "He is a Sam Rainsy Party

member?

"Yeah, that's him. They grabbed my collar and started hitting me. Someone jumped

on the wagon and started to kick me, someone grabbed a plank from the wagon and started

hitting me with it."

People gathered around and he heard them say "Stop it, you're going to kill

him." He ended up in the hospital, 33 stitches in his head.

"I don't know what to do now, I have no ability to complain," he told the

Post. "I'm afraid that if I complain to the authorities those people will kill

me." He added that people had been lurking around his house at night and he

was too afraid to travel the long distance to his factory job.

Party officials say that many of the victims feel similarly reluctant to go to police,

so incidents go under-reported. However, the SRP says more than 400 incidents have

been reported to the National Human Rights Committee.

At least one Committee for Free and Fair Elections observer from Kandal says he has

heard threats against him.

The observer complained that polling staff had opened and counted ballots the day

before they should have and made polling station committee staff reposition voting

screens.

A restaurant owner told him that a group of men later mentioned the observer's name,

saying: "If something happened to him, no-one would know," and discussing

his daily schedule.

"I'm still worried about my safety but I will go back home," he said.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly appealed against post-election recriminations

Aug 2. Rights workers hope that will have an effect.

"A lot of the people want to go home. We go back with them, show the letter

from Hun Sen to the village chief, and say we will come back and check on them,"

said a rights worker.

For Phanna, just being reunited with his family would be enough. "I want to

try and find my [step]father - I don't want to fight any more. I don't like it,"

he said. "I want to learn something like motorcycle repair... and earn some

money to feed my parents."

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