Pre-Election Food Stockpiling Begins Slowly

The rush has come nowhere near the run-up to 1998’s elections, but a few Phnom Penh residents have begun stockpiling foodstuffs because of fears that election turbulence will shutter markets.

Seng Va, 42, is among the survivalists. She said she remembers the factional fighting in 1997 and election violence in 1998 that left her and her family scavenging for days. She is hoarding instant noodles, just to be safe. “Stocking up on food is better to do now than when the situation forces the food markets to close,” she said, sitting in the shade of her squatter shack in Tuol Kok district.

Yeay Pov, another of the capital’s poorer residents, said she would be stocking up on food if only she could afford some.

However, most people interviewed Monday morning said they were not worried about election violence. The reason: Nei­ther Funcinpec nor the Sam Rainsy Party has the might to physically challenge the CPP.

“I have no more worries about inter-party disputes, but I do wor­ry that the ruling party will take bad advantage of the smaller parties in many areas,” said Say Phim, a 36-year-old motorcycle taxi driver. He said he is confident the authorities will provide sufficient security during the elections because they did so during the Asean meetings.

While picking through bags of rice at Tuol Kok’s Phsar Daum Kor, Y Eng complained that the 2003 election campaign seems to be going too smoothly. She could use a rush on rice, she said. The turbulence of earlier times was good for her sales. But, the 50-year-old mother added, her business woes are nothing compared to the difficulties she expects her two children to face growing up.

Without being asked, she worried out loud over society’s perils. “I am very concerned about my sons’ futures. I don’t want them to fall victim to the drugs and the gambling. The government has to take strict measures to prevent gambling near the schools.

“The new leaders who are born out of this election should pay attention to [vice], or our children will have problems,” she said.

At Phsar Daum Kor, the price of rice has increased from 600 riel to between 700 riel and 800 riel per kg in the past two months. Vendors blame the hike on a poor harvest.

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