After a month of kilometer-long truck convoys, blaring loudspeakers and thousands of posters tacked up on tree trunks, the 1998 campaign season ends today with more of the same.
Municipal officials expect 1,000 trucks on the streets of Phnom Penh, with supporters from large and small parties spreading leaflets and making last-minute appeals through bullhorns.
Thrown into the mix will be 1,000 Dhammayietra Pre-Election Peace marchers, many of them monks, who will make their way through the city for seven-and-a-half-hours calling for nonviolent elections.
“We all have to try and avoid each other,” said Funcinpec’s Ahmad Yahya, who is organizing a 100-vehicle convoy from 8 am to noon.
Truck convoys are the most common form of campaigning on city streets and country roads, especially for smaller parties with little access to the media.
El Somneang, chief of Phnom Penh’s traffic police, said his department will try to ease congestion and steer the convoys away from the peace march.
Mann Chhoeurn, chief of the municipal cabinet, said Thursday he has requested different parties to start their parades at different times and to take different routes. He has requested that military and traffic police assist in providing security.
“I am very optimistic that there will be no problems on the last day of the campaign, because all the parties have been happy to cooperate with each other,” Mann Chhoeurn said.
Both city officials predicted 1,000 trucks on the streets throughout the day.
Along with the Funcinpec convoy, the Free Development Republican Party plans an all-day parade with about 40 vehicles and 100 motorcycles, according to its president, Ted Ngoy. The Son Sann and Sam Rainsy parties are also planning convoys.
Sam Rainsy will speak at a final rally at 9 am this morning in Kompong Cham town, where he is running as a candidate. Afterwards he will travel in a truck convoy down Route 6A to a 3 pm rally in Phnom Penh.
Other trucks carrying party supporters from nine provincial cities will converge at Wat Botum at noon and leave for a citywide parade at 1 pm. The parade will end at 3 pm at the park in front of the National Assembly, where Sam Rainsy will lead a final rally.
“The rally is at the same place as the [March 30, 1997] grenade attack to show that people fighting for freedom will not submit to terror,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Rich Garella said.
At least 17 were killed and about 150 wounded in the attack on a Sam Rainsy-led protest.
Officials said safety is an issue. “We are always concerned about violence on the last day of the campaign,” Ahmad Yahya said.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh will spend today and tonight in Sihanoukville, where he will hold a rally at the city’s party headquarters.
The CPP, after launching a large convoy and holding a “picnic” in Phnom Penh on Thursday, is laying low for the final day of campaigning, according to party spokesman Svay Sitha.
“We have done so much over the last five years, now is our time for rest,” he said.
Kong Sariech, CPP campaign manager, said there will probably not be a parade in the city, but provincial workers are expected to travel to the city in trucks for a meeting at CPP headquarters.
Party President Chea Sim does not have any scheduled appearances, said Mat Ly Run Boray, chief of protocol for the CPP. Party Vice President Hun Sen is convalescing after undergoing an appendectomy last week.
But Prum Bunyi, cabinet director of the Cambodian National Olympic Committee, said the CPP had reserved Olympic Stadium for the day. He did not know any other details.
The Venerable Maha Ghosananda ends a six-day three-province tour today with the Dhammayietra Pre-Election Peace March through the streets of Phnom Penh. Eight hundred people are expected to join the 200 core marchers at Wat Than at 7 am, a press release said. The march is scheduled to end at 2:30 pm in front of the Royal Palace.