Security Tight As City Awaits Early Results

Armed military police officers manned roadblocks on all main access routes to Phnom Penh on Monday and scores of riot police took up positions at key sites in the city as the preliminary results of Sunday’s general election were emerging.

Minibuses and pickup trucks ferrying thousands of workers back to Phnom Penh after the weekend ballot were stopped and searched at checkpoints near the Monivong Bridge on National Route 1.

Hundreds of mostly young male and female factory workers were forced to alight while military police officers searched rickety provincial taxis for hidden weapons.

Officers at the checkpoint on Route 1 said the search was for post-election security, and they were searching for weapons possibly being smuggled into the city.

“On some main roads into the city we have set up 24-hour check­point duty to protect security during the election counting,” Deputy Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov said Monday.

“Our police are patrolling everywhere on the streets to ensure the watchdog safety for the people,” said Heng Pov, adding that he wanted to prevent a repeat of the grenade explosions that marred Sunday’s otherwise peaceful vote in Phnom Penh.

The checkpoints would also control the flow of people and vehicles back into Phnom Penh from the provinces. Many voters are scheduled to arrive back into town today, Heng Pov said.

Checkpoints were evident near Takhmau town on National Route 2 from Takeo province and National Route 6A from Kom­pong Cham province. However, officers at the checkpoint near Russei Keo district’s Prek Liep market appeared more concerned with collecting bribes than checking vehicles.

Groups of military police and Interior Ministry Intervention Police with steel helmets, riot shields and truncheons at the ready kept vigil at Hun Sen park, the National Assembly and the public gardens near the Royal Palace.

Convoys of heavily armed Fly­ing Tiger motorcycle police units also patrolled the city.

The show of force was a thinly disguised intimidation attempt, Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec officials said Monday.

“This basically looks like an intimidation tactic. They expect the opposition to hold demonstrations,” said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang.

Ung Bun-Ang said the Sam Rainsy Party was awaiting the outcome of the vote count and claimed that the CPP had plans also to hold counter- “victory demonstrations” in Phnom Penh in support of Hun Sen’s continuation as prime minister.

“This is just a small piece of their strategy,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

A Funcinpec official also said the riot police deployment was post-election theater, conjured up by the CPP to frighten people from voicing their dismay at the shoddy conduct of the polls.

Pro-CPP counterdemonstrators were readied to descend on Phnom Penh, the official claimed.

“The only purpose [for the police deployment] is to be alert for the people,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday.

Khieu Sopheak said that supporters of all parties, including the CPP, would be prevented from demonstrating either their election victory or loss.

“We want the parties to respect the will of the people,” he said.

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