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SRP candidates 'still under threat'

SRP candidates 'still under threat'

Opposition candidates registered for the February 2002 commune elections have complained

of continuing harassment and intimidation at the hands of political rivals.

Eng Chhai Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said 20 men armed with

AK-47s came to the house of Phon Chea, SRP chief for Chakrey commune in Battambang's

Phnom Preuk district, October 14 and vandalized the party signboard that was raised

the previous day.

"The men threatened to kill him. Chea had to take refuge in the party office.

The local authorities under the influence of the ruling party are threatening SRP

candidates to withdraw," he wrote in a statement, adding that such cases were

becoming commonplace in those communes where opposition candidates posed a threat

to the CPP. The SRP had earlier provided a list of 26 communes where cases of intimidation

were recorded

However, Im Suosdey, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said no

problems had been encountered during the candidates' registration process and said

the NEC had asked members of their security sub-committees to verify each complaint

independently of local police.

Meanwhile, the NEC has marginally increased the number of polling stations to 12,500

after revising its voters' list and collating the number of voters in each commune.

The final voters' list, Mr Suosdey said, was likely to be posted in November.

"The delay was due to the fact that all data had to be entered manually [on]

an outdated computer system. We needed proof readers to check names and details at

each stage. The computers in use since the first UNTAC elections had the UNIX operating

system, which had to be upgraded to Windows," he said. "[You should] consider

the fact that we completed the registration of voters and candidates without the

much-promised foreign support."

"Each party has fielded [around] double the number of candidates than there

are seats in individual communes, keeping the rest in reserve in case of problems,"

said another NEC official. Despite the NEC's October ruling that the disqualification

of one candidate would not mean the disqualification of all candidates on the commune

list, parties are not taking any chances.

The CPP has fielded 25,803 candidates in all 1,621 communes, Funcinpec has 24,692

in 1,603 communes, and the SRP 23,831 in 1,501 communes. Five other smaller parties

- the Khmer Democrat Party, the Chamroeun Niyum Party, the Vongkort Khemarak Party,

the Khmer Angkor Party, and the Khmer Women Party - have registered candidates in

a handful of communes.

The NEC will finalize nationwide figures November 25.

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