A commune councilor was found dead in Kompong Cham province on Saturday, during a scheduled visit in the area by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and managers of at least six newspapers announced that they would sell advertising space to parties competing in the July 27 elections.
Also, Prince Norodom Chakrapong said in an interview that he will lead his year-old party into its first general election with a cooperative agreement with the Sam Rainsy Party.
Officials said 45-year-old Poon Sam, a Phdao Chum commune councilor in the Cheung Prey district of Kompong Cham province, was discovered dead in a rice field at about 3 pm Saturday.
Police examined the corpse and determined it was an accident, said Deputy Provincial Police Chief Seng Sokim. Poon Sam was riding a bicycle home after drinking heavily when he fell into the rice field and died, Seng Sokim said. But Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said investigators found a bruise on Poon Sam’s neck, indicating that he was beaten. “This was a political killing,” said Eng Chhay Eang. “Poon Sam was very active for the Sam Rainsy Party, and he was gathering party supporters to meet the party president during his visit to Kompong Cham.”
Sam Rainsy, who is touring the province, visited Poon Sam’s house on Monday, Eng Chhay Eang said.
The Ministry of Interior has denied any instances of political killings in the run-up to the elections, and monitoring groups have noted a decline in politically motivated violence this year.
Meanwhile, newspaper editors will allow political parties to advertise on their pages, bucking a trend among private broadcast media companies to shy away from political entanglements during the elections. Kampuchea Thmei (New Cambodia), Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia), Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace), Samleng Yuvachon Khmer (The Voice of Khmer Youth), Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience) and Cambodia News have committed to selling ad space.
For the first time, election laws allow private media outlets to sell political advertising provided they do not discriminate against any party. Last month, private television stations—widely believed to be under the government’s influence—jointly decided to not accept political ads or broadcast election news.
Newspapers reach a fraction of the audience that television and radio stations draw, and at least one editor said he doubted that the CPP, Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy Party would invest in newspaper ads. “The main political parties already have their own media, while the small parties don’t have enough money to buy newspapers’ pages,” said Pen Samithy, editor in chief of Rasmei Kampuchea. “I don’t think any political parties will buy.”
Other editors said they would lower prices for interested political parties, and expressed hope that the freedom to advertise would improve the election climate.
“It’s very important for political parties to advertise their platforms in the famous newspapers,” said Touch Noaou, editor in chief of Kampuchea Thmei.
The National Election Committee will review each paper’s price scales for advertising, said Deputy Secretary-General Tuot Lux.
Also, in an interview on Monday, Prince Chakrapong said he hoped that his party and the Sam Rainsy Party would together garner one-third of the Assembly seats in order to stem CPP-Funcinpec power. The prince, who originally courted Funcinpec to form a royalist coalition, said his Norodom Chakrapong Proloeng Khmer Party is independent, but that he “exchanges information” with Sam Rainsy.
Ung Ban Ang, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the relationship with Prince Chakrapong was “very casual.” No formal relationship exists between the parties, he said.
“We can work with anybody from any party, so long as they share our vision,” he said.
Prince Chakrapong—the half-brother of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and head of Royal Phnom Penh Airways—said he has been working one day a week and spending the rest of his time touring the provinces.
Outlining the platform of the party, the former royalist army chief of staff stressed the depoliticization of the armed forces and resolving long-running border disputes with Vietnam and Thailand.
The party has fielded 117 candidates in 17 provinces and municipalities. Ending general lawlessness is its top priority, he said. “For us, we are fighting for the rule of law. Without the rule of law, you do not have the political stability, and without that you do not have economic stability.”
The prince also criticized Funcinpec for bowing to the CPP.
“Funcinpec stays in the government for 10 years, but they don’t do anything,” he said.
In a speech to his party congress in May, Prince Chakrapong said he had negotiated with Funcinpec officials for more than a year about possibly rejoining the party, under the condition that it change top leadership.
Serey Kosal, Funcinpec’s security adviser, said Monday that the party has no relationship with Prince Chakrapong.