The National Election Committee on Monday allowed opposition politician Sam Rainsy to broadcast gruesome footage of a grenade attack as part of a state-televised electoral campaign, but expressed concerns the broadcast could provoke violence.
“The NEC will allow Sam Rainsy to display the videotape as he requested,” NEC spokesman Samraing Kimsan told reporters at a briefing Monday before the video was shown.
“But I am concerned that it will encourage violence in our society because it contains [footage of] the March 30 grenade attack in front of the National Assembly,” he said. “It could lead to acts of revenge [and] scare the voters. ”
The tape, which aired on TVK at 6 pm Monday, features scenes of carnage after four grenades were thrown into an anti-government rally led by Sam Rainsy, killing at least 17 and wounding about 150.
It also contains footage of the opposition leader comforting the families of victims at an anniversary memorial service that municipal authorities tried unsuccessfully to ban.
“People were bleeding as the grenade exploded and some of the women were naked and covered with blood,” Samraing Kimsan said. “I was very scared by this terrible event and in my personal opinion, it would be better for him to reconsider.”
NEC President Chheng Phon wrote to Sam Rainsy after the tape was submitted last week, pleading with him to consider withdrawing or editing the broadcast to make it less emotive.
But in a letter Sunday, the opposition leader declined to amend the tape, and demanded it be aired in full.
“The SRP [Sam Rainsy Party], after considering the matter very carefully, insists that the NEC arrange for TVK to broadcast the above mentioned videocassette without any editing,” he wrote.
“This broadcast is intended to make the truth known in order to make people feel concerned and to increase the sense of responsibility of all political leaders so as to prevent similar violence…from happening again.”
According to a party statement issued Monday, SRP officials agreed to an NEC request that they blank out the face of former party Secretary-General Khieu Rada, now leader of the Khmer Unity Party.
Party officials resubmitted the tape along with a letter taking responsibility for any problems arising from it, in line with an NEC request, the statement said.
Each of the 39 parties competing in the July 26 polls has been given a five-minute slot for campaign broadcasts to be aired every other day on state television and radio. The NEC reserves the right to view all tapes before they are aired, to check for any violation of its media regulations.
Monday’s Sam Rainsy Party statement, however, said the party had found nothing in the code that would prohibit the video.
“The video does not contain any specific accusations,” it said. “It does not name [Second Prime Minister and CPP Vice President] Hun Sen or his organization as orchestrating the attack and blocking any investigation into it.”
Part of the video, however, features a meeting between Sam Rainsy and a victim’s relative, who says she believes the opposition leader will bring the perpetrators to justice if he wins the forthcoming polls.
Sam Rainsy has in the past publicly denounced Hun Sen for his alleged involvement and the government’s failure to seriously investigate the crime. Bodyguards loyal to the CPP vice-president were implicated in the attack after witnesses claimed they allowed the perpetrators to escape through their ranks.
Senior CPP members and their allies, including Hun Sen, have insinuated that Sam Rainsy launched the attack on himself in an effort to discredit his rivals.