The recent killings of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Funcinpec members are either
politically motivated or Cambodia is witnessing the "world's biggest
coincidence", an international election expert said November
Following an independent inquiry into the November 14 shooting of SRP
activist, Phuong Sophat, and Funcinpec commune council candidate, Thon Phally,
both in Srolop commune in Kampong Cham, he said there was much more to these and
earlier incidents than just personal rivalry, property dispute or
"That is too much of a coincidence," he said, speaking on
condition of anonymity. He said his opinion was based on evidence he was sharing
with other investigators. SRP cabinet chief, Phi Thach, also claimed the
killings were a clear case of systematic elimination of the opposition intended
to send a signal to the public.
"[In the recent case], the killers of
Funcinpec candidate Thon Phally first asked him if he belonged to the SRP. When
he told them he was from Funcinpec, they killed him saying even those from the
royalist party were the same. That clearly shows the intention of the killers,"
Thach told the Post November 22.
Seven people have been killed in the run
up to the commune elections, most from the opposition SRP. Five were commune
council candidates, although the latest SRP killing was of a party member, not a
Local authorities said November 18 that the SRP's
Sophat was involved in a rape and robbery case August 12, while Phally had a
land dispute with his neighbor. Both were shot dead in separate villages in
Srolop commune within an hour of each other by unidentified gunmen.
if opposition allegations that such killings were "centrally coordinated" proved
baseless, the observer felt that "increasing incidents certainly seem to be
centrally tolerated. Else, why has the Royal Government not explored the
political angle [in any of the cases] and set an example?"
group Licadho meanwhile said it had responded to 60 commune election related
cases of threats, harassment, intimidation and killings since early this year.
It said that "29 cases have been confirmed to be politically motivated or likely
to be politically motivated".
"Eighteen of these cases [including the two
latest killings] are still under investigation and it is still difficult to
ascribe a political motivation. Only one case was found to be a false
allegation, the others are likely [to be politically related]," stated the NGO's
progress report of November 19.
While Funcinpec and law enforcement
authorities were waiting for the findings of the police investigation before
commenting, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, which represents 18
local human rights NGOs, said it was independently probing the cases.
"We will release the findings after compiling reports from all of our
members," said director Sok Sam Oeun.
General-Secretary of the National
Election Committee, Im Suosdey, when asked whether such incidents were an
electoral concern, and whether the findings of the NEC's own security committee
were any different from those of the government in all other cases of threats,
violence or killings reported so far, said violence of any kind was a
"In addition to the security committee earlier established on
the Prime Minister's orders, our provincial and commune level security
committees also independently inquire into each complaint. But we have neither
the means nor resources to establish a parallel investigation mechanism," he
Thirty-three international observers and 19,663 national observers
have registered for the upcoming commune elections. The electoral organizations
and political parties said November 21 they would like more international
observers to ensure the elections are held in a free and fair manner in all
"However, it seems the commune elections are not
eliciting as much interest [among international observers] as the general
elections," said a senior NEC official. He expressed the hope that countries
watching the democratic process at work would send more observers nearer
ï The registration of political agents will take place December 7-13, while
the final list of commune council candidates registered by the political parties
will likely be posted by November 29.
The NEC said parties which missed
the October deadline to register their candidates in certain communes would not
be given another chance to do so, since that would require an amendment to the
commune election law, "for which there is neither time nor the
Six political parties led by the opposition SRP petitioned
the NEC saying they could not register candidates in some communes due to either
floods or political intimidation.
ï Human rights and legal experts say the Constitution allows pre-trial
prisoners equal voting rights under the premise that people are innocent until
However, that won't happen in the February, 2002 commune
election since the electoral process includes no provisions for pre-trial
prisoners, patients or absentee voters. NEC's Suosdey said November 21 that he
hoped the system would one day mature to such a level.
returned recently from witnessing Australia's general election, said: "Like in
other countries, we would like to include absentee ballots or postal votes and
honor the voting rights of patients and even prisoners. But the electoral system
has to become sound and efficient for that, which will take time."
would be helped by improving the basic electoral infrastructure and upgrading
communication systems. Mobile registration and polling stations, telephones,
electricity and fax machines would all make a difference, he said. And they will
hopefully be in place by the 2003 national election.
ï What will happen if the difference in votes polled by two or more political
parties is 0.05 percent? Under proportional representation would the party with
the higher count be allocated the remaining seat? And what would happen if, in
some stray cases, allocation of only one seat was left and the difference turned
out to be even less than 0.05 percent?
The NEC has been advised to
upgrade its computer system to a level where such comparisons can be specified
down to the last fraction of a percentage point to avoid a repeat of the
confusion and political conflict that marred the results of the 1998 general
Once specific details were available, arbitrating on such
issues on a case-to-case basis would be much easier, experts said. For its part
the NEC said it had requested such an upgrade and would press ahead once the
promised foreign funding turned up.
ï The trial of the alleged killer of Funcinpec candidate Meas Soy will start
Nov 27 in Kampong Chhnang.