Violence Mars Otherwise Smooth Campaigns

Several violent incidents in recent days do not point to a systematic campaign of pre-election violence, but an explosion near a Funcinpec office in Prey Veng province earlier this week has spread fear in the southeastern constituency, an election monitor said Friday.

Other instances of election violence were reported in several provinces, and the opposition party renewed the distribution of a booklet pulled from vendors by police earlier this year.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said his organization is investigating the blast and a separate killing in Prey Veng province.

Comfrel is also investigating reports that a Funcinpec supporter in Banteay Meanchey prov­ince was beaten by five men on Wednesday night.

“There is some intimidation, but very sporadic,” Koul Panha said.

“Yesterday and today is still smooth and if [the campaign period] stays like that we have a better hope for a better election,” he said.

Both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party appear to have more access to radio air time than during the 2002 commune elections, Koul Panha added.

Though the monthlong election campaign period has started relatively calmly, Koul Panha sounded a note of caution that the campaign was still in its early days.

“We saw in 2002 [commune election] that close to the polling day activists were killed. It is still too early to say [what will happen], but our observers are keeping watch,” he said.

The grenade explosion in Prey Veng’s Peam Ro district on Tuesday night took place around 40 meters from a Funcinpec’s activist’s house. No one was injured, Comfrel reported.

On Wednesday in Peam Ro district Sae Dom, 67, a reported Funcinpec party supporter, was gunned down by unidentified assailants, Comfrel also reported.

Prey Veng Deputy Provincial Police Chief Doeung Mony said on Friday that neither incident was linked to political intimidation.

“A bad man just destroyed his grenade by throwing it into a rice paddy,” Doeung Mony said. “It has no links to intimidation.”

Doeung Mony also contradicted reports that the man slain on Wednesday night, Sae Dom, was a member of the royalist party.

“The slain man is a CPP member and was killed in a robbery,” he said.

On Friday the European Union deployed 37 “long-term” election observers to cover 20 provinces and four municipalities in the run up to the July 27 vote.

The small number of EU ob­servers will unlikely be able to conduct thorough monitoring of large and remote provinces, they will be a touchstone for reports from local observer groups and political parties, Koul Panha said.

“International observers are very important,” he added.

In Kompong Cham province on Thursday the royalist party employed two helicopters to drop thousands of party leaflets over remote villages, said party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The pilot of one helicopter, Prince Sisowath Chivan Monirak, was a gifted pilot who once shot down a Vietnamese jet fighter, Prince Ranariddh said. “Is there any party that has ever used a plane like us,” the Prince said in a speech broadcast on radio.

Members of the Sam Rainsy Party were also distributing their own printed material on Friday in the form of a previously banned booklet on the life and killing of the hugely popular actress Piseth Pilika.

In January, plainclothes and uniformed police officers confiscated the booklets—which link the murdered actress to a high-ranking official—from newspaper stands in Phnom Penh.

One page of the booklet shows a picture of the star’s funeral, with photos of Piseth Pilika, Hun Sen and Bun Rany.

Sales of the book were brisk outside SRP headquarters Friday afternoon.

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