Amid ongoing complaints of violence, intimidation, and difficulties in registering voters, the government has established a security committee to stop election violence.
The committee, endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, will assign between 30,000 and 40,000 police and military police to maintain security throughout the campaign season.
Human rights advocates said that while the committee is a good idea, they aren’t sure it will function effectively.
“We worry whether it will work. We have seen many committees formed [under pressure], but in fact they never achieved their goals,” Licadho founder Kek Galabru said.
International pressure has mounted in recent weeks, as two political candidates have been killed and others assaulted. Election observers file daily reports of lesser forms of intimidation, from political signs being ripped down to qualified voters being blocked from registering.
Peter Leuprecht, the UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, last week called for independent investigations into the deaths of Uch Horn and Meas Soy, the slain candidates.
Government investigators say the killings and assaults were not political, but were instead personal disputes.
Meanwhile, people in dozens of communes have complained that election officials are issuing confusing and conflicting information on how to register—often refusing to let people register at all.
Ty Pouch, who lives in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, said she had the proper documents and had arranged baby-sitting with a neighbor, only to be told she had come on the wrong day.
“I have no more time to come back to register, and now I don’t want to. I am very upset,” she said.
A 20-year-old student who did not want his name used said he arrived at his registration center in Sangkat Boeng Tumpun at 7:20 am Sunday, because he wanted to be first in line when it opened at 7:30 am.
Nobody had showed up by 8:10 am, when he had to leave for school. “I don’t know when I can go to the registration center again,” the student said.
Saing Soenthrith, a reporter at the Cambodia Daily, brought along his voting cards from 1993 and 1998, as well as his family book, to register at Wat Dombok Khpos in Boeng Tumpun commune.
“They told me to see the village chief again and have him confirm the information about my family. Why should I need this confirmation?” he asked.
Sek Sophal, executive director of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, said the National Elections Commission should allow people to register at any center in their commune.
“Their procedures are very complicated” and many voters may not return once rejected, he said.
Elections observers also worry that registration is lagging behind earlier elections.
“The information is not reaching people in remote villages, and [the NEC] procedure is too strict,” said Son Ketsereyleak, election officer for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
Prum Nhean Vicheth of the NEC said procedures would not be changed, but that people shouldn’t worry, because those rejected the first time will have one more chance to register at the end of the campaign.