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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Concerns over Political Intimidation and Obstruction prior to the 2008 National Assembly Elections Preparation Stage


Joint Statement
Concerns over Political Intimidation and Obstruction prior to the 2008 National Assembly Elections Preparation Stage

COMFREL, NICFEC and CHRAC are greatly concerned over the ongoing situation of political influence over the judiciary system, court and law enforcement armed forces (1), especially the recent arrests and attempted arrests, the use of violence toward political parties’ activists and the ongoing obstruction of some political parties’ activities. These cases take place repeatedly in Phnom Penh, Pailin, Kampong Thom, Takeo and Kampong Chhnang, with a negative impact on the environment for fair and free elections.

Arrests political parties’ activists without a court warrant and without in-depth investigation cause an environment of fear and mean that non-ruling parties’ activists dare not do anything. According to CHRAC’s Statement, Mr. Tout Saron, Kampong Thom’s Baray’s Ponro Commune Chief, was summoned at Toul Kroeus Market, Baray District by police officials led by Baray District Police Chief without showing a court order. In the meantime, there is a question about the different answers given by victim Toeum Norn, first when she met with a LICADHO officer and an officer of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, and then later. On February 18, 2008, at the LICADHO office, Mrs. Toeum Norn did not make a complaint about detention against her will. Instead, she asked for help from LICADHO to protect her and her family, as she had previously defected from the Sam Rainsy Party to the Cambodian People’s Party and later wanted to go back to the Sam Rainsy Party. But, later on she said she was afraid the Sam Rainsy Party may kill her (2).

According to the CHRAC investigation, Mrs. Toeum Norn did not lose her rights to communicate with her friends and family. And there is nothing to prove that Mrs. Toeum Norn was either detained or arrested.

There has been obstruction and prevention towards some political parties, including the Sam Rainsy Party, the Human Rights Party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and FUNCINPEC from carrying out political activities such as meetings and, in some cases, local authority crackdowns on meetings and taking down of a political party’s signboard. Evidently, there was violence involved in taking down a Sam Rainsy Party signboard, causing Member of Parliament for Phnom Penh H.E. Mr. HO Vann to be injured on March 22, 2008. The taking down of a Sam Rainsy Party signboard also took place in Pailin. A Norodom Ranariddh Party signboard in Banteay Meanchey was also taken down. In total, until now, there have been at least 20 cases of taking down of political parties’ signboards. These cases, which have happened to non-ruling parties, have not been addressed fairly and effectively.

The political party and candidate registration for the elections is due within less than one month. However, the Prince Norodom Ranariddh case has not been settled yet. This can be considered as contributing to an unequal election contest: the leader, and maybe a potential candidate, of one party cannot contest in the upcoming elections.

Civil society highly appreciates the efforts of the Royal Government and competent authorities who have ensured that the 2008 pre-election environment has seen no cases of murder and severe violence towards politician. However, the competent authorities should continue to try their best to stop arrests, intimidation and violence towards political party activists and politician. The Royal Government, competent authorities and relevant stakeholders should make efforts to effectively settle any case to ensure a good environment for free and fair elections and to ensure politicians and political party leaders (such as Prince Norodom Ranariddh) can contest in the elections fairly without any fear.

Phnom Penh, March 27, 2008


For further information, please contact:
1. Mr. KOUL Panha, COMFREL's Executive Director, 012 942 017
2. Mr. HANG Puthea, NICFEC's Executive Director, 012 959 666
3. Mr. SOUN Sareth, CHRAC's Secretariat, 012 830 422

(1) This was noted in LICADHO and ADHOC’s report on Cambodian Human Rights December 2007: ‘Charade Justice’.
(2) According to LICADHO’s report and the Cambodia Daily, published on March 24, 2008 (P.5).

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