siem reap town – Siem Reap’s voters turned out early at polling stations, and there were no conflicts between approved observer groups and those disqualified in the hours preceding the vote.
But some observers voiced serious concerns over alleged poll-station intimidation by commune and village chiefs.
“JIOG said the election is doing very well,” provincial election commission chief Buth Kary said Sunday evening, referring to the Joint International Observer Group. “I went to one station and 60 percent had voted already…by 10:30 am.”
A radio monitor for an international observer group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her observers had reported no security problems or conflicts between observer groups.
National Election Committee Vice Chairman Kassie Neou, who visited Siem Reap and Battambang by helicopter Sunday, said his television message to disqualified NGO observers kept more than 30,000 untrained observers away from polls.
“Well, the majority got my message on TV that they are volunteers and that they should go home and vote,” he said, referring to allegations that two NGOs promised their observers NEC salaries.
Chan Soveth, an investigator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said his major concerns were the presence of village and commune chiefs outside polling stations. He said they voted early then lingered, questioning voters outside the polling station, Chan Soveth said.
“I think this is not good for the situation of the people and for secrecy,” he said.
Buth Kary said his commission had received no such reports, but said that if the practice were indeed widespread, “it would be wrong for elections.”
Comfrel also said it will investigate reports of low voter turnout in various communes. Chan Soveth said he thinks village and commune chiefs may have threatened people whom they think would not support their parties.