Huge Rallies To Mark Start of Poll Campaign

The election campaign period is set to kick off in celebratory fashion today with a number of political parties promising to bring thousands of supporters to Phnom Penh for massive rallies.

The largest of the scheduled events is to be held by Prime Min­ister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, with 11,000 people attending a morning rally at the party’s headquarters on Norodom Boulevard, CPP Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheat­vong said. From there, supporters will travel through the city in a large motorcade, which Pa Socheatvong said will include 1,000 trucks and 2,000 motorbikes.

“We will campaign asking the voters to re-elect the prime minister,” he said.

The SRP will host 5,000 to 6,000 supporters at its rally, said Ho Vann, SRP lawmaker for Phnom Penh.

The party faithful will be gathering at Wat Botum this morning be­fore marching to the nearby stupa commemorating the victims of the 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy-led rally. From there, Ho Vann said, supporters will board trucks to travel about the city and distribute pamphlets.

“We will give a special message… that an SRP government would provide employment…reduce inflation and gasoline [prices], and, third, provide free medical care,” Ho Vann said.

The two major royalist contend­ers—the Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec—will also hold rallies followed by large mo­torized processions.

NRP spokesman Muth Chann­tha said more than 2,000 supporters will gather in front of the Na­tional Assembly before boarding trucks that will fan out across the country. He said the party is intentionally limiting its numbers to keep costs down.

Funcinpec Second Vice Presi­dent Prince Sisowath Sirirath said about 3,500 supporters will gather at the Chenla Theater before striking out across the capital in a procession of 100 trucks and 400 motorbikes.

“Funcinpec’s stance is to protect and support the monarchy,” Prince Sirirath said. “We cannot forget our gratitude towards the retired King.”

On Wednesday a group of eight NGOs, including local rights group Adhoc and the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, released a joint statement condemning Phnom Penh City Hall’s ban on parties using certain major boulevards for their campaign processions.

“This alliance of NGOs would like to express its disagreement [with] and strong rejection of any initiative to prevent [political parties] from campaigning on public streets. This initiative will affect on this being a free and fair election,” the statement read.

Pa Socheatvong confirmed Wed­nesday that the city’s election committee had agreed to ban campaign processions on Norodom, Moni­vong and Mao Tse Toung boulevards. He reiterated that the ban was strictly a means to prevent traffic jams.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said by telephone Wednes­day that Phnom Penh’s election committee has already worked with the parties to coordinate their motorcades around the city.

He added a stern warning to parties to adhere to the rules during the 30-day campaign period, saying, “Those who abuse the election law, they will be punished.”


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