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Khmer Rouge attack PEC staff near Anlong Veng

Khmer Rouge attack PEC staff near Anlong Veng

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KR ELECTION DISRUPTION

Balloting materials destined for an Anlong Veng-area polling station lay charred

and tattered after a Khmer Rouge attack. A Mao cap and sandals, belonging to

the tractor driver who was one of two killed in the ambush, were also recovered.

THE VISION of Cambodia's nationwide election was threatened July 17 when a band of

guerrillas suspected to be hardline Khmer Rouge ambushed a group of Cambodian election

officials near Anlong Veng.

Two election workers were killed and five injured in the attack on a tractor carrying

ballots, ballot boxes and other polling materials to a Commune Election Commission

in Trapeang Prasat district, about 15km east of Anlong Veng, according to the National

Election Committee (NEC).

"They sent the Khmer Rouge along the road, and when the tractor came they attacked,"

Srey Yon, a Provincial Election Commission official wounded in the attack, told The

Associated Press in Siem Reap. "Some of them collected everything from the tractor

and put it in a fire."

Most of the polling material was damaged in the attack, NEC spokesman Samraing Kamsan

said. Two ballot boxes and 2,808 ballot papers have gone missing.

Srey Yon said he believed the Khmer Rouge were tipped off that polling equipment

would be coming through the area because they appeared to be waiting in ambush. "I

think Ta Mok doesn't want anyone in these elections," he said in reference to

the one-legged leader of the last remaining hardline guerrillas.

Sloppy security may have allowed the Khmer Rouge to stage the ambush, according to

one RCAF officer in Siem Reap, who explained to the Post that the driver of the tractor

did not ask for military protection and then radioed ahead to Trapeang Prasat village,

a communication that could have easily been intercepted by the hardliners.

Meas Sophea, a RCAF deputy chief of staff, added that a skirmish between government

and Khmer Rouge troops had occurred in the area just a day before. The RCAF drove

off the Khmer Rouge and killed one rebel soldier, the general said, which may have

contributed to a false sense of security in Trapeang Prasat.

News of the attack provoked condemnations of the Khmer Rouge by political parties

and the United Nations, whose 1993 election effort in Cambodia was much more seriously

dogged by the pullout of the Khmer Rouge and subsequent rebel attacks on ethnic Vietnamese

during the campaign and polling stations on election day.

"The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human

Rights in Cambodia [Thomas Hammarberg] condemns the attack on election staff officials

in Anlong Veng," a UN statement read.

"[UN human rights staff] are furthermore investigating information received

about plans by the remnants of the Khmer Rouge to disrupt the electoral process through

the use of violence in areas they continue to operate. The information received has

been shared with the National Election Committee."

NEC officials are still optimistic that election preparations will continue in and

around the former Khmer Rouge stronghold that was captured by government forces in

April after a mass defection of key rebel division commanders.

"We will continue our efforts for voting in Trapeang Prasat," Samraing

Kamsan said. "The attack happened because of carelessnes by peaceful [PEC members

and CEC members in the area]. The CEC and the security forces were caught thinking

about peace. But now we must toughen ourselves. If something else happens, we will

deal with it then. This is the normal situation in a front-line area. But the NEC

has not made a decision to withdraw."

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