kompong cham town – When the village chief dropped by a restaurant here at 4:45 am Tuesday to drop off the results of Sunday’s poll, the owner was confused.
“He said these were the results, but I don’t believe them,” said the restaurant owner, who asked not to be named, as he surveyed the sheet awarding 8 seats each to Funcinpec and CPP, with two for the Sam Rainsy Party.
“How can the CPP be level with Funcinpec in Kompong Cham? There were hardly any people who liked them,” he said. “This paper is made up by somebody to put people in their place. If the actual result is different, they will challenge it.”
Neang Sovath, provincial director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, also warned that the list could be an attempt to lay the groundwork for rejection of the result.
“It’s a warning to the PEC,” he said. “Now the CPP are very happy, they are having parties all over. If there are any differences in the result, they will shout that it is unfair.”
PEC Chairman Yim Bunthit said he was unconcerned over circulation of the fake results and did not believe it would be used to challenge the official count. The former secretary-general of the provincial Cabinet also rejected the notion that local authorities had distributed the list.
“I don’t believe the village chief would do that,” Yim Bunthit said.
The only official present Tuesday at the town’s deserted provincial headquarters said the list was “an affair of the party.”
Staff at a hotel close to the CPP’s provincial headquarters, where party workers sat drinking beer early Tuesday morning, said their copy of the results had been delivered by one of the party’s guards. But CPP officials inside denied any knowledge of the list, saying it was the first time they had seen it.
“These are just somebody’s prediction,” said Thong Chaleap, the official in charge of reviewing results reported by CPP workers. CPP officials late Tuesday refused to release the results they had gathered but said Funcinpec and CPP looked to be neck-and-neck.
According to unofficial results from Funcinpec and Comfrel, Funcinpec was well ahead in the province. With more than 43 percent of the vote counted, Funcinpec had 147,731 votes and the CPP had 117,409. The Sam Rainsy Party had 52,194.
Senior CPP official Siv Huy said the party would not challenge the results, adding that it had only done so in 1993 because “they were wrong that time.”
Meanwhile, at Funcinpec headquarters across the road, party workers were not in the mood to relish their victory. They said they feared violent reprisals from those angry at losing the country’s most populous province.
“After the count, Funcinpec was leading; the people were afraid,” said Sok Thoeung, a party member. “In two villages, CPP workers have gone around collecting party T-shirts back from villagers because they are not happy with the vote.”
Sam Rainsy Party officials said about 50 party members who traveled with the ballot bags to the provincial capital had decided to stay in town until they could “assess the situation.”
Mao San Ell and Neam Som Ath, two Sam Rainsy Party workers from Dam Bey district, east of the Mekong River, said they had followed the ballot bags on motorbikes after soldiers refused them space on the pickup tuck transporting the bags.
“We are very afraid of the situation, because the authorities don’t like us to join with opposition parties,” Mao San Ell said. He claimed that in the district’s Chong Cheach commune, soldiers had disrupted a meeting of party agents on the eve of the election, scaring them away from observing the polls.
Funcinpec candidate Sam Sareth expressed concern over delays in getting ballot bags to the capital, saying the time lapse could represent opportunities for fraud.
By 5:30 pm Tuesday, only about 100 of the 173 communes’ ballot bags had arrived at the PEC.
Yim Bun Thith said he was optimistic all the bags would arrive by Tuesday evening, allowing the provincial count to begin as scheduled at 7 am today.
As he was interviewed, however, he received a phone call to inform him that the rest of the ballots from districts east of the Mekong River had been stranded by a ferry breakdown. “Perhaps we will have to send a boat,” he mused.