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Monitors worried by election violence

Monitors worried by election violence

Election monitoring NGOs have recorded nine murders and 26 cases of intimidation

since campaigning began on June 26. They expressed concern at the violence, which

they said seemed to be increasing, and warned it would worsen unless the Ministry

of Interior (MoI) and the National Election Committee (NEC) intervened.

"We are very worried," said Hang Puthea, executive director of NICFEC,

an election monitoring body. His NGO receives around ten politically-related leads

each day, far more than normal, of which two per day were information on killings.

He said more than 6,000 volunteer observers worked for NICFEC in the communes, and

142 "long-term, skilled observers" covered districts.

A report from NICFEC covering June 11 to 27 stated that all the killings in that

period were in rural provinces. Eight of those murdered were supporters of the ruling

Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Puthea said none of the dead were high-ranking officials, and that one Funcinpec

supporter was arrested in connection with a killing. He blamed widespread lack of

education for the murders.

"People don't understand ... democracy," he said. "Democracy is not

about killing, not violence."

He added that people's psychology had not evolved enough to be truly democratic,

and blamed the mental scars on the legacy of numerous wars in the country.

"People want their party to win, so they do something to try to be the winner

[like behave violently]," he said. Puthea also feared the killings would constrain

voters and make them think: 'I should not go to vote.'

He said NICFEC sent all information on possible politically-related murders to the

NEC and the MoI, then waited for an answer. The NEC and the Central Bureau for Security

(CBS) have joint responsibility to investigate security incidents in the election

period.

The UN human rights body, UNCOHCHR, said in a July 3 statement that it was investigating

"a number of reports of violence and intimidation" committed during the

campaign period. A spokesperson said Peter Leuprecht, the special representative,

would release a pre-election report in early July.

A July 2 joint statement from human rights groups and election monitoring NGOs stated

there were 26 cases of political intimidation between June 25 and 30.

ADHOC, Comfrel, NICFEC and the Youth Council of Cambodia noted that 19 cases were

related to supporters of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), five had links with Funcinpec

and two with the CPP.

The statement defined the term "intimidation" as including: "grenade

explosion, election card confiscation,dismantling and tearing of signs, and threatening

people not to listen to Ta Prohm, [Radio] Free Asia and VOA radio".

Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, said on July 1 that there had been an

increase in suspected politically-motivated killings in the five days of campaigning.

But the NEC's secretary-general, Tep Nytha, was cautious.

"The NEC is waiting for a detailed report from the Provincial Election Committee,

and then we will cooperate with the Central Bureau of Security to solve the problem,"

he said.

Mao Chandara, a member of the secretariat of the CBS and chief of staff of the national

police, felt that the current climate was better than in previous elections.

"[In all these] cases of murder we have not [drawn] any conclusions yet, because

most of the cases are under investigation," he said.

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