Monitors: Intimidation, Vote-Buying Ignored

Six weeks before the general elections, human rights and election monitoring groups are piling up reports of intimidation, vote-buying and political killings.

To date, no one has faced punishment as a result of the reports.

“The [National Election Com­mittee] has not yet solved any [cases] or punished them, even though some of the offenders have well-known identities,” Thun Saray of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections said at a news conference Thursday.

Comfrel representatives said that at least 84 political activists had been threatened or intimidated in six provinces since January. The Hang Dara Democratic Party also said Thursday that several of its party members had been harassed by local authorities.

The NEC has been slow to respond to the complaints, saying that most reports don’t provide a basis for investigation.

“If we have some clue, we can take action,” said NEC spokes­man Leng Sochea. “They have no where, when, why, who or how. It is a big problem for us.”

But this week, provincial election officials are investigating complaints that a commune official in Prey Veng province confiscated about 280 voting cards to enroll villagers with Funcinpec.

It is the first government investigation of voting card confiscation—a practice that election monitors routinely call a plague on Cambodian elections—in the run-up to July 27, and this week’s proceedings could signify election officials’ commitment to stem­ming corruption.

Kut Ky, a Funcinpec member and the second deputy commune chief of Trabak commune in Kamchay Mear district, allegedly took the voting cards from villagers and promised gifts in re­turn. Officials say Kut Ky then took villagers’ photos from the cards and transferred them to Funcinpec membership cards.

The Prey Veng province election committee will hold a hearing in the coming days to announce its findings and possibly mete out punishment. Kut Ky could lose his position on the commune council if found guilty of intimidation, according to the election law.

“This is very important,” said Leng Sochea. “Each [provincial election committee] should take action against this sort of activity.”

By Ban, chief of the Prey Veng committee, said Tuesday the villagers’ voting cards were rendered useless and promised to replace them. But he and other Prey Veng officials defended Kut Ky, claiming he was acting in ignorance of the electoral law that prohibits au­thorities from tampering with voter cards. “Kut Ky doesn’t under­stand the election law. He wanted to find more supporters,” By Ban said.

Chuong Sieuvuth, Prey Veng provincial governor, said, “We will issue a verbal warning to the second deputy commune chief. He needs time [to learn] the election law.” The NEC has offered the services of a legal expert, Leng So­chea said. At least one monitoring group wants Kut Ky removed.

“When [officials confiscate] vo­ting passes, they can force those vo­ters to vote for their political party,” said Hang Puthea, president of the Neutral and Impartial Co­mmittee for Free and Fair El­ections. “The NEC shouldn’t just is­sue a minor punishment. They should fire him from his position.”

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

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