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Villagers claim CPP arm-twisting

Families of former Khmer Rouge soldiers and government officials affected by land disputes appeal for third-party intervention in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district in April
Families of former Khmer Rouge soldiers and government officials affected by land disputes appeal for third-party intervention in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district in April. A number of villagers say they are now being forced to vote for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. MAY TITTHARA

Villagers claim CPP arm-twisting

ABOUT 40 families of ex-Khmer Rouge and government soldiers in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district complained to rights group Adhoc yesterday, accusing officials of forcing them to thumbprint a contract saying they would vote CPP so the party could resolve an ongoing land dispute, an allegation quickly denied by local officials.

Resident Moeung Pov* — currently involved in a land dispute with tycoon Try Pheap — said she and nine others had gone to a Cambodia National Rescue Party campaign event in Veal Veng’s Thma Da commune last week. That evening, she said, she received a visit from the village and commune chiefs and a police official telling them to go to the commune hall the next morning.

“I went there with 10 other people, and suddenly the village, commune and administrative police chiefs threatened us to make us thumbprint and promise to join the Cambodian People’s Party and vote for it,” said Pov. “I did it for them, but they do not know who I will vote for when I tick the ballot.”

The village and commune chiefs told Pov and the others they should be grateful to the CPP for liberating and developing the country, she said.

“I asked them, ‘What development?’ I went from having land for farming, to losing all my farming land,” she said, adding that the officials promised to resolve her land dispute after the election.

Another resident, Sok Sidoeun*, said the officials had told her they were willing to forget a one-time indiscretion, provided she refrained from visiting future events.

However, Thma Da commune chief Prom Norn denied the accusations, saying his officials had told only CPP members that they had to vote for the party and had left others alone.

Hang Puthea, executive director of the election watchdog NICFEC, said such complaints should be taken to the commune or provincial election commissions. National Election Commission secretary-general Tep Nytha said that although he was unaware of the allegations, if true, they would certainly constitute an illegal act.

*The names of villagers have been changed at their request for fear of reprisal.

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