The largest regional network of election monitors stopped short of declaring Sunday’s commune elections “free and fair” Tuesday, saying that pre-election violence and a lack of information marred otherwise peaceful balloting.
“The situation during the Feb 3 elections was acceptable, but it was not absolutely free and fair,” Sunai Phasuk, research and information program coordinator for The Asian Network for Free Elections, said at a post-election news conference.
Although he refused to say who was responsible for the violence and intimidation, and declined to say whether the violence and intimidation influenced the results, Phasuk said the amount of violence during the commune elections was markedly less than during previous elections.
“Anfrel was here in 1998, and some of our observers worked for Untac [in 1993], so we understand the culture of violence,” Phasuk said. “The level of violence has decreased since 1993 and 1998, but it is still not good enough.”
Anfrel did observe disorder and irregularities at polling stations, Phasuk said. The most serious complaint was in Pailin, where observers reported that eight voters not identified on the registration list were allowed to vote and one person cast a ballot without a registration card.
These complaints were overshadowed by the pre-election killings of commune candidates and activists.
Kang Iong Nian, a member of the Malaysian human rights groups Suaram and an Anfrel observer in Cambodia, said he couldn’t comment on who is responsible for the intimidation, but said, “In the past the military has been responsible for a lot of the violence in the country.”
Anfrel observers reported that the chief of Tropieng Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province, wore a CPP badge, sat behind a polling station and instructed people how to vote.
(Additional reporting by Myo Tha Htet)