Violence Complaints Persist as Election Campaign Finishes

Responding to a question on whether Sunday’s commune council election can be considered credible in light of the large number of threats, intimidation and killing of activists and candidates, National Election Com­mittee Secretary-General Im Suosdey acknowledged that “a culture of violence still exists” in Cambodia after decades of war.

But he said there have been less killings compared to the run-ups to the 1993 and 1998 national elections. “The NEC has sought and received cooperation for se­curity,” he said on the final day of campaigning.

Also Friday, a UN Human Rights report on the election’s two-week campaign period warn­ed of further problems in the immediate aftermath of the elections. It cited violence and election irregularities during the second week of campaigning.

The report came as the Sam Rainsy Party claimed another killing of one of its party activists. Tap Uk, 33, was shot by a police officer Wed­nesday morning in Nipich commune, Kompong Svay district, Kompong Thom province, accor­ding to a Sam Rainsy Party statement.

Kompong Thom provincial police chief Men Rithy confirmed that the shooting took place, but said it occurred during a robbery and was not politically motivated.

Pursat police chief Kong Sophara said police in Kompong Cham province arrested a soldier in connection to Monday’s robbery and shooting death of Funcinpec activist Las Kuok.

Sim Sa, 32, was arrested Thurs­day in Chamkar Leu district. Police confiscated a motorcycle and a weapon. Pursat police are searching for two more suspects.

Also in Pursat Thursday, a traffic accident on Route 5 killed Funcinpec candidate Chor Inh and injured Funcinpec activist Ven Mak in Bakan district. Police said a taxi driving from Battam­bang to Phnom Penh escaped from the scene.

In Arak Thnoat commune, Stung Trang district, Kompong Cham province, a Sam Rainsy Party activist’s home was burned to the groundThursday, according to party officials.

In its report, the UN warned that Kompong Cham province, which “has been more seriously afflicted by election-related crime than any other” province with five deaths, deserves “particular attention” after election day.

Efforts to rein in armed gangs in Tbong Khmum district have made recent headway, according to the statement. But a gang believed responsible for the Nov­em­ber killing of Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec activists in Srolop commune “has continued to terrorize local communities.”

“The line between political and non-political criminality has become blurred to the point where, irrespective of motives, incidents—including accidental deaths—are causing alarm am­ong the electorate,” the statement said. “That criminality and politics should overlap to this extent is a matter for serious concern.”

In addition to the UN report, two US congressmen have sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging him “to take effective action to investigate and prosecute all those involved in acts of coercion or violence before, during or following” the election.

“The weeks immediately following the vote are most important given the past history of reprisals,” the letter stated.

The Jan 30 letter was signed by Reps Tom Lantos and Chris Smith, high-ranking members of the Inter­national Relations Com­mit­tee.

(Additional reporting by Matt Reed)

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