koh kong town – At the Koh Kong provincial election committee headquarters Wednesday, election and party officials held their second-to-last weekly meeting ahead of the July 27 national elections.
Present were representatives of the three main parties, human rights organizations and commune and provincial election officials.
“The situation of the recent campaign is going smoothly,” reported Koh Kong provincial committee head Neang Chhum. “There have been small problems, but they have been solved by discussion at the grass-roots level. And security has been good.”
A human rights official who has been monitoring the campaign agreed that intimidation has been less prevalent than in other provinces, but said he had received complaints that the CPP has been recording voter identification numbers from supporters of Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.
“The NEC says that they do not record the number, but that they are just comparing to make sure that the person is registered,” the official said.
But people say they believe that when the ballots are counted, the numbers can be cross-referenced. The official said he has heard reports of officials saying that “they can check to see if the voter kept any promise they might have made to vote for a certain party.”
And, it was reported to the human rights official that when some 50 Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec supporters went to register, they never received their photos for their voter ID cards. They were told that the camera was broken and that they would have to re-take the photos.
“It is a form of intimidation,” the human rights worker said, because he fears the commune election committee is collecting the photos of voters who support parties other than the CPP.
But CPP commune council member for Stung Veng commune, Meas Kosal, denied that the collecting of voting cards or photos was tantamount to intimidation.
The commune officials ordered him to collect the cards because he needed them to verify the identity of young people, voters new to the area and other new registrants.
With regard to the photos, Meas Kosal said it takes time to process the film. He added that some people live in “remote areas” and it is difficult for the commune committee to deliver all the voting cards and photos.
Meanwhile, Phan Sam Un, a 50-year-old villager, agreed that there has been no intimidation.
For Phan Sam Un and his neighbors and family members who had gathered under his house just off the road to Sre Ambel, the main election issue is the redistribution of land.
The villagers all live in small houses on the edge of the government land. Phan Sam Un grows seedlings of hardwood trees for his landlord, which he sells for $0.75. In 25 years, when the trees are mature, he says, his landlord will sell them for $2,500.
“The government allows me to live on their land, but the government does not give me a job. All this land is owned by government officials, but they do nothing with it. They should give us some land to plant rice,” Phan Sam Un said, speaking for the gathered crowd. “We request from the next ruling government to take the land back from the powerful men.”