Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Voters Continue to Sign Up Despite Violence

Voters Continue to Sign Up Despite Violence

Voters Continue to Sign Up Despite Violence

Ongoing Truce Violations, Political Intimidation

As the U.N. Security Council deliberated what steps to take to salvage the Cambodian

peace process, the Cambodian countryside was hit by a flurry of truce violations

and incidents of political violence.

Despite the shakey status of the peace settlement, Cambodians continued to register

to vote in record numbers, topping the 1 million mark in mid-November.

"These are encouraging figures," said UNTAC Electoral Chief Reginald Austin.

"The rate of registration has been consistently higher than expected. It shows

the enormous enthusiasm and determination of Cambodians to claim their right to vote."

Contrary to the original plan, UNTAC has launched the electoral process before the

factions have been disarmed. UNTAC military forces have shifted their emphasis from

demobilizing the rival armies to protecting voter registration sites.

UNTAC force commander Lt. Gen. John Sanderson said "quick reaction forces"

throughout Cambodia are poised to deal with emergency situations and protect the

polls.

UNTAC spokesman Eric Falt confirmed there was an increase in ceasefire violations

the weekend of Nov. 6-8, when the factions and superpowers were meeting in Beijing

for a last-ditch effort to salvage the accords.

"It's a tense situation, but the incidents do not appear to be in any way coordinated,

but the result of tension between rival factions at particular spots," said

Falt on Nov. 9.

Despite the truce violations- which have been ongoing in Cambodia since the peace

accords were signed-Sanderson says no faction has made major military gains.

"There's no question that the factions have taken steps to consolidate bits

of territory under their control," Sanderson said. "But no faction has

taken a major military objective or a major town or city while UNTAC has been here."

Meanwhile, Electoral Component Chief Austin reported that registration of voters

and political parties is proceeding smoothly. As of Nov. 15, fourteen political parties

had provisionally registered with UNTAC, five of which have opened branch offices

at the provincial and district level.

However, several parties continue to report harassment and assassinations of their

members. The Partie Democrate, lead by former Prime Minister In Tam, reports that

members have been killed recently in Siem Reap, Kompong Cham, and Kompong Thom; and

the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP)-which has reported 21 "lethal accidents"

since opening offices in SOC territory-reported that another of their members was

killed recently in Prey Veng province.

Mr. At Sadan, an outspoken BLDP member who was first deputy of the party in Ba Phnom

district in Prey Veng, was gunned down in his home Nov. 2 in front of his wife and

children.

"I was trying to stop them from coming up the stairs," said Pao Sokhuon,

At's wife, who said the family had heard rumors that he was going to be murdered.

"They beat me and pushed me back and ordered me to open the door to our house,

where my husband was hiding inside."

After demanding money and gold, the men-dressed in Hun Senarmy uniforms-shot and

killed her husband as well as 67-year-old mother-in-law, who was running towards

the house, Pao said.

Sok Kung, chief of Political Affairs for the BLDP in Prey Veng, said people are afraid

to go to the BLDP office since the shooting.

"They're afraid they'll be punished," he said. "UNTAC should show

stronger power to protect our members as well as ordinary people who want to join

our party."

Falt confirmed that the BLDP has suffered a higher number of "these accidents"

than any other political party.

In the most recent incident, BLDP offices in Koh Kong were attacked by two AK-47-weilding

men on Nov. 8, injuring two employees. UNTAC has sent a team to investigate.

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