The UN human rights office has released a report highly critical of the campaign atmosphere, alleging local government authorities have largely intimidated opposition parties into a “virtually non-existent” grassroots presence, particularly in the countryside.
The report, released Wednesday on behalf of Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, documents 143 incidents of alleged intimidation reported since May 27 that the Phnom Penh office has looked into or is currently investigating.
“These allegations, recorded over a five-week period, illustrate widespread political intimidation and abuse,” the report reads. “They reflect a general climate of pressure and fear which is particularly noticeable in the countryside.”
The document blames, in large part, government administrative and security authorities at the district level and below “acting on behalf of a political party instead of in a neutral manner.”
Hammarberg’s opening statement calls on the government to investigate all instances of violence and to push for neutrality at all levels in the government administration.
Included in the 143 cases being investigated are 10 killings, two attempted killings and a host of election-related incidents ranging from harassment and intimidation to signboard vandalism and clandestine troop and tank movements.
While some government officials on Wednesday dismissed allegations of any nationwide political intimidation, others admitted that it is impossible to prevent all incidents of political harassment.
“If there is really a climate of fear and intimidation, how could we have such a high rate of voter registration,” queried Svay Sitha, a government spokesman and a CPP candidate standing in Kompong Speu. “There [are] no incidents at all…There are some cases of extrajudicial killings, but these cases are purely about personal or family disputes, it has nothing to do with political motivation.”