Aggressive night patrols in Prey Veng province to prevent distribution of gifts to voters on the eve of the election has been hailed as a major factor in the Sam Rainsy Party gaining its first ever seats in the staunchly pro-Hun Sen province.
Prey Veng’s 29-year-old opposition candidate Chea Poch said Wednesday his party’s two-seat gain in the province was due to the disruption of the traditional practice of vote-buying by CPP activists on the night before the ballot.
Communicating by hand-held radios, Sam Rainsy Party activists in five pickup trucks, on foot and riding bicycles kept watch over villages in a concerted effort to gather evidence and disrupt the night of gift-giving, known locally as the “Night of the Barking Dogs.”
“Two seats are still not enough, as I had planned. But, I think our operation was successful,” Chea Poch said by telephone from Prey Veng Wednesday. “If we did not go to stop the gift distribution, we think we would not have gained any seats.”
“If there was no gift-giving, we might get at least three or four seats,” Chea Poch added.
According to early estimates from the National Election Committee, in Prey Veng the CPP won six seats, Funcinpec three and the Sam Rainsy Party two.
In the 1998 election, Prey Veng’s 11 seats were split seven for the CPP and four for Funcinpec.
Chea Poch criticized international election observers, claiming they did not monitor electoral infractions properly.
On the night before the election, while he was barreling around the province in the dark, international observers were tucked in bed, Chea Poch said.
“They fear for their security, and they observed in the near areas, especially in the town. They did not get to the far areas,” he claimed.
CPP election observers in Prey Veng province confirmed Sunday that hundreds of villagers were given money several days before the election by a CPP village chief.