kompong cham town – International observers Monday gave a mostly positive assessment of the commune vote count, while opposition parties complained of irregularities in remote areas where there were no foreign monitors.
“It’s very impressively organized,” said one observer, surveying the count in the town’s Veal Vong commune, where opposition leader Sam Rainsy had apparently triumphed. “It’s going much faster than we expected and all the stations we have visited are going smoothly.”
Observers from opposing parties in the town’s four counting centers sat side by side, tallying the votes as polling station officials called out the numbers of parties ticked on the ballot sheets.
But Sam Rainsy Party candidate Kim Ly said that reports from party observers in the province’s most eastern district, Memot, presented a less positive picture of the count.
Kim Ly accused electoral officials in the district’s Kok commune of deliberately excluding some party agents from the count and of cheating on the tally.
“They only let in two of our observers, then they counted the ballots seven at a time so our agents couldn’t see which were our papers and which were CPP,” she said.
Results radioed in by party officials indicated the Sam Rainsy Party had captured only 204 votes in Kok commune, against 512 for Funcinpec and 4,855 for the CPP.
Kim Ly dismissed the significance of the presence of observers from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, saying that “Comfrel agents in Memot district are CPP.”
“It is so easy for them to commit fraud because the opposition agents weren’t allowed to get close,” she said. “If there had been international observers, they wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
Comfrel Provincial Director Neang Sovath acknowledged it was not always possible to prevent party members from becoming Comfrel observers, but said the organization strives to recruit neutral staff.
“I’ve never heard of Comfrel being accused of being CPP,” he said. “Usually we are accused of being with the opposition.”
Late Monday afternoon, Comfrel was still waiting for reports on the count from its observers, and could not confirm Kim Ly’s claim. But Neang Sovath said the organization had already received reports about polling day and they indicated no serious problems.
In one incident, he said, the blue bag holding a ballot box caught fire on a pagoda candle, blackening the box.
Funcinpec Deputy Party Chief Pao Vicheaka, who returned from Krek district in the east, said polling-day reports singled out Memot as a problem area.
“Armed men ambushed people because they realized people in Memot will vote for Funcinpec,” he said, claiming one voter had been injured. “In Krek and Memot districts, people were not all owed to come and vote—more than 2,000 in some communes.”
Provincial election commission chairman Yim Buhthith denied the claim.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “In some cases, some people just make it up. That’s the way of some political parties.”
He cited only one incident in Memot, a killing Saturday. “It was probably a robbery. He lived a long way away from the polling station,” he said.