Harassment by CPP Claimed in Anlong Veng

anlong veng district, Oddar Meanchey province – This dusty former Khmer Rouge stronghold and final resting place of Pol Pot is surprisingly quiet less than two weeks before the Feb 3 commune elections.

It’s a far cry from the 1998 national elections, when approximately 40 alleged Khmer Rouge rebels led an attack in Anlong Veng that left seven people dead and dozens more wounded. But the town was not without election-related problems in 2002.

Accusations of death threats and bribing of potential voters have been raised recently from Funcinpec commune and district officials, who claim the CPP has systematically intimidated Funcin­pec candidates and vandalized at least four party signs.

“Today, the CPP destroys our election signs. They said if we continue to put our signs up, they would shoot and kill us,” said one Funcinpec district official who declined to be identified for fear of retribution from the CPP.

At Funcinpec district headquarters, located a little more than a kilometer from the center of Anlong Veng town, the official showed reporters one mangled party sign with several large gashes in it. The navy blue Funcinpec sign in front of the office was covered with red paint. According to the official, the CPP committed both acts of petty vandalism.

While the destruction of party signs may not seem significant compared to a Khmer Rouge insurgency or election-related killings, in a remote area such as Anlong Veng, where nine randomly interviewed people could not identify one commune candidate by name, party recognition appears paramount.

The Funcinpec official said CPP district officials here have conducted a sustained campaign of intimidation for at least a year, with the most recent incident on Dec 24, when 11 soldiers razed a Funcinpec sign in Trabangtav commune and threatened to kill the individual who erected it. The official emphasized the threats against Funcinpec members and commune candidates were orchestrated by district officials, not by the central government.

According to the official, party officials brought their complaints to Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Lay Virak, a Funcinpec member, who ordered CPP district officials to halt the threats. Lay Virak reportedly brought the complaints to co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hokry, who reportedly told CPP district officials to halt the alleged intimidation.

Doun Chhunly, CPP deputy governor for Anlong Veng, admitted the CPP tore down Funcinpec’s signs on several occasions, but said they were “dropped” because Funcinpec did not receive permission from police and authorities to raise their signs.

“The problem is small and at the local level,” Doun Chhunly said in an interview at his house, located less than 40 meters from  Funcinpec headquarters. “We have only had problems with Funcinpec; we have had no problem with the Sam Rainsy Party because the Sam Rainsy Party has received permission to put up their signs.”

Phi Thach, cabinet chief for the Sam Rainsy Party, said at least one man has been harassed by the CPP because of his party membership. Sam Thy was forced to change his name to Yem Phin and had his salary cut off and his name erased from the military payroll because he belonged to the Sam Rainsy Party, Phi Thach said.

CPP has 75 candidates on slates in all five Anlong Veng communes. Funcinpec has 67 council candidates in five communes. The Sam Rainsy Party has 53 candidates in four communes. The one commune which has no Sam Rainsy Party candidates—Trabangtav commune—is where Funcinpec officials claim the CPP has threatened their members the most.

Despite those accusations, Duon Chhunly said he is “not afraid that the elections will be unfair or that there will be voter fraud,  because the local commune election committees will stand by every commune and check the registration process.”

Duon Chhunly said the main issues in Anlong Veng concern development. Prime Minister Hun Sen designated Anlong Veng—the final resting place of Pol Pot and the former stronghold of Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok—as a historic tourist zone last month to prevent uncontrolled development.

Development will likely not take place any time soon. Duon Chhunly said the most striking change was the completion of a road connecting the villages of Anlong Veng, making it easier for the 20,000-plus residents to travel. Duon Chhunly credits international NGOs and the CPP for the road construction.

 

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Orn Vannak stood under the hot sun and pointed with pride to the new Funcinpec sign in front of his Trabangtav commune house. Located about 10 km outside of Anlong Veng town, Orn Vannak’s house has become a focal point in the commune election race and represents the lingering remnants of Ta Mok’s legacy as well.

The 43-year-old commune council candidate said CPP members have threatened his life, destroyed one Funcinpec sign in front of his house last July, and continually harassed him.

“I am constantly harassed because people are jealous of me, and they are afraid of losing power,” he said. “During the Khmer Rouge years, we are all like brothers, but later, when we split and became Funcinpec or CPP, then the problems began.”

When asked who tore down his sign, he showed reporters a tattered piece of paper with the names of three suspects he accused of the vandalism. Chheck Noun was one of the names listed.

“That man is Chheck Noun,” Orn Vannak said, pointing toward his neighbor, who rode up, smiling, on a bicycle.

Chheck Noun admitted he and two other men in fact did tear down the sign. He said he did not do it for money and held no animosity toward Orn Vannak. His neighbors, who laughed when Chheck Noun made his disclosure, agreed.

“Someone told me to do it, but I never threatened him,” Chheck Noun said. He refused to say who ordered him to tear down the sign.

Orn Vannak had no comment on whether he would press charges or even call the proper authorities. No one, it seems, takes complaints to the police, preferring instead to take matters into their own hands.

One moto driver explained, “If someone steals something or commits a crime, such as stealing my moto, I would find him and kill him,” he said. “That is the Ta Mok law.”

 

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