Monitors Say Political Violence Increasing

As concern mounts over a string of shootings of commune election candidates, reports by opposition party officials and election monitors suggest these attacks are only a fraction of the politically motivated violence in Cam­bodia.

On Friday election monitor Comfrel reported about 20 incidents throughout the country, including ripping down party sign­boards, verbal threats against activists, firing guns into the air and prohibiting political activities. The incidents largely succeeded in dampening political debate in the area where they occured, Comfrel reported.

Also this week, the Sam Rainsy Party released a report cataloging six months of violence and intimidation against its own members. In addition to two shootings of candidates, the party alleges 18 threats were made against party activists and nine party signboards were destroyed.

In the most recent incident, the party alleges that a military commander in Pailin, Chum Duong, told his men on July 10 to “be careful of death” if they supported Sam Rainsy and ordered them to thumbprint a letter of loyalty to the ruling CPP.

Speaking from Sam Rainsy headquarters in Pailin, two men claiming to be soldiers in Chum Duong’s battalion said he told them that getting involved in political parties—”especially the Sam Rainsy Party”—was dangerous. But they said Chum Duong asked, not ordered, his men to give their thumbprints. Chum Duong denied threatening his men. “I just told them that we are soldiers, and soldiers have to be neutral,” he said.

Government spokesman Khi­eu Kanharith said the claims are over­blown. ”You have violence every day, but because an election is near, some political parties try to politicize the situation. Some­times it’s not the political party, but the candidate tries to make himself important by claiming intimidation or violence.”

 

 

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