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."