Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy threatened Monday to boycott next year’s commune elections if the intimidation and murder of his party activists doesn’t stop.
“It is not a coincidence that our best people have been eliminated,” he told reporters. “We cannot accept that our members were killed. One person killed will make 1,000 people afraid.”
Three opposition party members have been killed recently in the largely CPP-controlled provinces, and Sam Rainsy claims countless lesser attacks have been made against his activists in an attempt to discourage his party’s participation in the commune elections.
The question is not whether the elections will be free and fair, Sam Rainsy said, but “how un-free and how unfair.”
Elections in Cambodia’s more than 1,600 communes are scheduled for February 2002.
Independent election monitors have criticized the commune election laws for giving too much if an advantage to the CPP and Funcinpec. But the government is pushing ahead, with all the necessary measures already approved by the Constitutional Council.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanarith dismissed Sam Rainsy’s assertions of political intimidation and other government officials claim his complaints are made merely to take attention away from his declining popularity.
“[Prime Minister] Hun Sen has made it very clear that he does not condone violence or intimidation,” Khieu Kanarith said. “Sam Rainsy always has an excuse.”
The US government and other independent groups documented only one political killing last year, when a Funcinpec activist and his wife were fatally shot in Kampot province. The suspects, a former CPP commune chief and his alleged henchman, were each sentenced in March to 17 years in prison.
Families or victims of political intimidation, ranging from detentions and beatings to murders, also told their stories Monday.
The first to speak was Meang Kim Bun, 62, whose son Phuong Phan was shot twice and subsequently died. Meang Kim Bun and Phuong Phan’s widow arrived last week in Phnom Penh, fleeing what they called further harassment from soldiers in their village.
Phuong Phan, a Sam Rainsy Party activist in Dambe district, Kompong Cham province, was shot by a neighbor and died in the hospital.
“The reason [the murderer] shot him was because my husband and another supporter put up a [Sam Rainsy Party] sign,” she said.
Seng Sokim, the deputy penal police chief in Kompong Cham town, said Sunday the killing was the result of a personal dispute, a claim Sam Rainsy disputes. Seng Sokim said he has obtained an arrest warrant for Yoeung Teang Lay, a soldier and neighbor of Phuong Phan.
Similar stories were told by sisters, widows, mothers and wives. Their stories point to systematic intimidation, Sam Rainsy said.
(Additional reporting by Ana Nov and Saing Soenthrith)