Parties Court 5,000 Voters in Anlong Veng

Opposition parties have begun to cast their eyes on the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng and the nearly 5,000 registered voters there.

Because of its previous isolation and the guerrilla group’s strict control over media, voters have had little knowledge about the political landscape in Cam­bodia.

Defectors interviewed in April said they are eager to vote and ready to listen to party platforms. But they reported not knowing the identity of a single political party.

“I plan to put on a good show for the people there,” Reastr Ni­yum spokesman Pou Sovachana said Thursday. He is running for election in nearby Siem Reap province.

For now, it appears that only CPP officials, including co-Mini­ster of Defense Tea Banh, have been able to reach the remote northern Oddar Meanchey village during the election campaign, which began June 25.

Last week, Tea Banh took a helicopter on loan from tycoon Teng Bunma, as part of a Red Cross aid mission led by Bun Rany, the wife of CPP Vice Presi­dent Hun Sen.

Funcinpec Campaign Manager May Sam Oeun said Thursday he does not know if his party will trek to the remote zone.

“We just realized that in our campaign schedule, we had not included Anlong Veng,” May Sam Oeun said. Party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh was in Siem Reap town on Thursday. By helicopter, Anlong Veng is 100 km northeast from there. By road, it is a 120 km trip. About half of the road is in poor condition.

Asked if the trip is too much trouble for a relatively negligible 5,000-vote constituency, May Sam Oeun said, “Every vote concerns us. That is the difference in democracy, only one vote.”

May Sam Oeun said the onus should fall on the National Elec­tion Committee to provide political parties with the means to reach the remote area. “The NEC has to make the opportunity for election campaigns available for all political parties to go to Anlong Veng,” he said.

Eleven polling stations have been created to handle voters, who were registered last month.

Oddar Meanchey does not carry its own seat in the National Assembly and is under the civilian administration of Banteay Meanchey province. Votes there will be split by district between Siem Reap province and Banteay Meanchey, with Anlong Veng votes going to Siem Reap.

At least one party representative said Thursday his organization would not court “the Khmer Rouge” for votes.

“We don’t want the Khmer Rouge to support us,” said Kem Sokha, secretary-general of the Son Sann Party. “We need only support from the Cambodian people with the idea to send the Khmer Rouge leaders to the international court.”

Pou Sovachana said it is likely that he will travel to Anlong Veng soon.

“The next objective for me is to meet with very far away people,” he said. “Reastr Niyum doesn’t have the ability to get there yet. But this is part of my plan to spend the day in Anlong Veng very soon.”

The former Khmer Rouge living near Phnom Kulen, about 30 km north of Siem Reap town, have been “very receptive” to his campaign so far, Pou Sovachana said.




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