sisophon, Banteay Meanchey province – Election officials and military police here are concerned that bandits and resistance forces may attempt to disrupt the election, despite moves by the acting governor to quash security worries.
“We are concerned about robberies and security problems caused by extremist forces living in the remote areas along the border,” said Suon Sophon, chief of the provincial election commission’s legal services. “About four or five villages in the province face this threat.”
Suon Sophon said Thursday that PEC staff are also concerned they may be a hijack target for local bandits. PEC members travel around the province in expensive cars donated by the European Union, he said, and they may appear to be carrying large quantities of money.
Khmer Rouge bandits and resistance forces loyal to General Nhiek Bun Chhay are still at large along the border with Thailand, said Sun Sambath, chief of staff of Banteay Meanchey military police. Rumors abound in the province about possible attacks from rogue units, he said.
“We take these threats from the extremists seriously,” he said Thursday. “We are taking precautions to protect against possible attacks. These threats are made to obstruct the electoral process and to scare people from taking part in the election.”
Sun Sambath said military police heard that resistance forces were threatening to attack O’Chhrov village close to Poipet town Tuesday and Wednesday. A joint force of military police, civilian police and RCAF soldiers had been deployed in the area, he added, and appeared to have prevented an attack.
The joint force was put in place at the beginning of the election period to enforce security for the poll. Officers in Sisophon have already confiscated 30 weapons as part of a province-wide campaign to keep arms to a minimum. Robberies have decreased by 90 percent since the force was put in place, Sun Sambath said.
On June 28, 50 to 100 armed men, reportedly resistance soldiers, attacked a village near the Thai border, killing at least five people, including two Cambodian Mine Action Center deminers and two of their children. The attack followed reports of gang rape, kidnappings and other acts of terrorism in the province.
Earlier this month, one man was killed in a robbery in Thma Puok district, acting Governor Chhay Sareth said Thursday. Another man was taken hostage in O’Chhrov last week and held for a ransom of about $240. But Chhay Sareth was quick to dispel security fears, saying these were the only two cases this month.
“The threats and rumors are an exaggeration from some parties who want to delay the election and make noises to the international community, but nothing has happened, as you can see,” he said. “The province is very quiet. People here are used to hearing these rumors and they don’t worry about them.”
He said he was confident the election would go ahead without disruption.
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