Kampot Villagers Say Chiefs Pushing for CPP

Villagers in Kampot province say their village chiefs are pressuring them to join the ruling CPP before the voter registration period for the 2007 commune elections, which begins next month.

More than 200 villagers in Chrak Kes village, in Dang Tong district’s Dang Tong commune, were photographed during a meeting at their village chief’s home Wednesday so that CPP membership cards could be made for them, villagers said Thursday.

Sieng Khuy, a villager who attended the meeting, said villagers were also asked how they planned to vote, and which parties they have voted for previously.

“Such questions seem to intimidate villagers because we have full rights to vote for any political parties we like and we have legal rights to keep quiet about who we vote for,” Sieng Khuy said.

Villager Sok Nary said Chrak Kes village chief Tuon Chrun told those at the meeting that anyone holding a CPP membership card would receive gifts and preferential help from the party.

Tuon Chrun could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Dang Tong commune chief Samrith Nan said officials were questioning all villagers in the commune, particularly those who have just reached the voting age of 18, to see who had not yet joined the CPP. Villagers are free to decline to join the CPP, he said.

He added that photographs taken of villagers are also being used to make identity documents for voters, and that they will still be given these if they don’t join the CPP. These documents are required by the National Election Committee in order to register between Oct 1 and Oct 20.

Tep Nitha, NEC secretary-general, said political parties are free to recruit members up until the time of election campaigns.

He declined to comment on allegations of intimidation by CPP village chiefs, saying that he had no idea if they were true.

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