CPP officials in Siem Reap province’s Varin district asked dozens of villagers to swear on their families’ lives last week that they would vote for the ruling party in the 2008 national elections, villagers and a rights worker said.
Local CPP officials asked residents to swear the oath in at least three villages in Svay Sor commune, said Sours Narin, provincial investigator for local rights group Adhoc.
Several villagers said Thursday that they were asked to swear the oath at nighttime, over a glass of water containing a small statue of Buddha. Villagers swore that they and their families would receive divine retribution if they betrayed the ruling party, they said.
Ang Sakhin, 48, a resident of Svay Sor’s O village, said CPP officials watched while he and five other villagers swore the oath Wednesday.
“If I do not vote for [the CPP], my family members and I will die from this oath,” he said by telephone, adding that he was already a CPP member.
Traing Chhoeurn, the CPP’s chief of Svay Sor commune, said he asked CPP members to swear an oath because he suspected that some of them did not vote for the CPP in the April 1 commune elections. But he denied villagers were asked to swear on their lives or those of their families.
Before the election, the CPP distributed sarongs and food to 1,895 CPP members in the commune, but only 1,141 people voted for the party, he said.
“I do not want them to cheat me and the party in the future, so I organized to allow members to have this holy water, to be sincere and not to lie to the party,” he said.
Traing Chhoeurn said participation in the oath was voluntary. “I did not ask other people who are not CPP members to drink,” he added.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said the project was completely inappropriate.
“Instead of convincing people of a just cause to support the party, they use superstition,” he said, adding that voters “are not property.”
Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that if villagers were asked to swear on their lives, this violated election regulations by intimidating voters.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the CPP did not condone loyalty oaths.
“You cannot force people to make [a] promise when the heart does not follow,” he said.
“Pressure won’t get any result because people know well that [their] vote is secret,” he added.