With national elections only a few days away, Cambodians are more interested in the Preah Vihear border crisis than the campaign, leading some parties to try to exploit the situation to attract votes, said election monitor Koul Panha.
Preah Vihear has become the central issue in the campaign, outstripping corruption, inflation, land grabs and social justice, Panha told the Post.
He accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in particular of co-opting political credit for UNESCO’s recent designation of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.
“The CPP has been telling voters that the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site was solely a victory of the CPP,” said Koul Panha, who is executive director of the election watchdog Comfrel.
Once Thai troops made their incursion into Cambodian territory, it became an issue for the opposition parties as well, with all of them trying to take advantage of the situation to pull votes, Koul Panha said.
“I suspect that the ruling party might be conspiring with the Thai government to distract voters from inflation and from their illegal acts of corruption and land grabbing,” said Human Rights Party (HRP) vice president Keat Sukun.
HRP leader Kem Sokha has stepped in, urging that the Cambodian and Thai kings resolve the matter.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay has used the crisis to accuse the government of failing to protect Cambodia’s territorial integrity.
“The ruling party organized the Preah Vihear celebration to win votes,” added Son Chhay, who also said the ruling party and its coalition partners were using the Preah Vihear issue to obstruct the election process.
I suspect that the ruling party might be conspiring with the Thai government to distract voters from inflation and from their illegal acts of corruption and land grabbing.
Government spokesman and CPP member Khieu Kanharith said that the government has tried to hard to keep the peace by not allowing Thai troops to do whatever they want in Cambodia, and was not using the situation to gain political capital.
“We do not want to gain votes by pouring fuel on the fire,” Khieu Kanharith said. “The government will solve the issue of Preah Vihear by lawful and peaceful diplomatic means.”
Hang Puthea, executive director of the election monitor NICFEC, also echoed the opinion that some political parties had encouraged the border dispute to manipulate voters.