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Pre-Election Violence and Intimidation
Between January 1, 2001, and February 3, 2002, fifteen members of Funcinpec and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, most of whom were prospective or confirmed commune council candidates, were killed. (See Appendix A for list of people killed.) The incidence of political killing increased as the election neared, with more than half the cases occurring between November 2001 and January 2002.

Trials have taken place in four cases of suspected political killing dating from 2001, three of which resulted in convictions and lengthy jail terms for the defendants. However, in none of these cases did the courts accept a political motive for the killings, attributing one to a business dispute and two to revenge for alleged acts of "black magic". Observers of two trials that took place in February 2002 were concerned that in both cases key defendants were found guilty despite insufficient evidence, their convictions providing unwarranted justification for claims that the killings were not politically motivated. In addition to the killings, between January 1, 2001, and February 3, 2002 there were:

    · More than 200 reported cases of intimidation, threats and harassment against activists and candidates running against the CPP, including twenty-four death threats. There were two reported cases of threats made against CPP supporters.

    · Twenty-three cases of arbitrary arrest or detention of opposition party supporters.3

    · Fifty cases of property violation against opposition parties, including forty-two cases where party signboards were damaged, destroyed or removed for fear of reprisal. Two cases of property destruction were reported against the CPP.

Voter Coercion and Vote-Buying
The pre-election period saw intimidation of voters, primarily through confiscation of voter registration cards and pressure to take oaths of loyalty to the CPP, in at least ten Cambodian provinces. As early as August 2001, electoral monitoring organizations received reports in a number of provinces of vote buying, which continued through to election day. Each of the three main parties has been reported as involved in vote buying, although the CPP has been cited in the great majority of cases. In addition, the pre-election night (February 2) saw incidents reported from almost every province of gift giving by all major parties (illegal in Cambodia) and voter coercion by local CPP officials.4

Unequal Access to the Media
Media access for opposition parties, and in particular access to the broadcast media, was more restricted than in the 1998 national elections. Of the thirteen Cambodian national radio stations, only FM102 (a non-political channel operated by the Women's Media Center, a nongovernmental organization) and Beehive Radio (operated by the Beehive Social Democratic Party, which did not stand in the commune elections) are wholly free from CPP affiliation. Funcinpec managed to re-establish a radio station in 2001, but it remains closely linked to the government and its national coalition partner. The Ministry of Information has consistently rejected the SRP's applications for a radio broadcast license.

Despite substantial national and international pressure, the NEC did not change a pre-campaign decision preventing six local-level candidate debates from being aired on national television, although one debate was broadcast on a national radio station. In addition, the NEC reversed its decision to allow broadcast of fifteen pre-screened, national-level election roundtable debates organized by nongovernmental organizations during the campaign period.

The NEC's media monitoring subcommittee primarily focused on the political content of voter education materials produced by election NGOs, rather than the lack of access to the airwaves by opposition parties during the campaign.

With almost no access to any form of broadcast political discussion, voters' ability to make an informed choice on election day was severely limited. A report published by the nongovernmental election monitoring organization COMFREL (Committee for Free and Fair Elections) indicated that the activities of the government and the CPP dominated news coverage both before and during the campaign period, while the exposure given to opposition parties was negligible.5

Polling and Vote Counting
Polling day itself was relatively peaceful, with no major incidents of violence reported. National and international election monitors noted that most problems in the voting and counting processes were organizational, rather than the result of deliberate electoral fraud.

The increased transparency of the counting process, whereby votes were counted publicly in the polling station after close of polling, by contrast with prior national elections where they were collected in separate locations for counting, resulted in few complaints of electoral fraud, with the major cause of dissent relating to decisions taken over invalid ballot papers. By contrast with 1998, when all post-election complaints filed by the opposition were dismissed, the NEC did respond to some objections made by the Sam Rainsy Party, holding provincial-level recounts of ballots from eleven polling stations. The revised result from one station in Kompong Speu province handed the victory in that commune to the SRP. Calls to hold recounts in a further seven communes where the SRP lost by a narrow margin were dismissed by the NEC.

The CPP emerged the winner, securing 68 percent of commune council seats and commune chief positions on close to 99 percent of all councils. The SRP obtained 12 percent of commune council seats and commune chiefs on thirteen councils, and Funcinpec received 20 percent of commune council seats and commune chiefs on ten councils.

Inaction by the Government Mechanisms to Address Election-Related Violations
Despite continued complaints of intimidation and vote buying, the NEC and its provincial and commune sub-committees did not once exercise their considerable powers of sanction against offenders. A planned "Code of Conduct for Village and Commune Chiefs" that the NEC pledged to distribute before the campaign period was never finalized, providing no guidance for those who sought to obey the election regulations, let alone deterring those intent on violating them. Although the NEC and its provincial and commune subcommittees claimed to have resolved some complaints through a conciliation process, their failure to take firm and public action sends the message that such unlawful practices will be tolerated in future elections.

Post-Election Period
Concerns continue for the security of newly elected councilors, former candidates and other opposition party members as the new commune councils are formed. Since the elections took place, one SRP supporter was shot dead in Phnom Penh, and a SRP candidate was seriously injured in a shooting in Kompong Cham province. Available evidence suggests that both incidents were politically motivated. With national elections little more than a year away, the Cambodian government must take substantial steps to ensure that politicians are protected from violence and harassment, and that citizens feel free to vote with their conscience.

3 Of the twenty-three cases, some involved multiple victims, the total number of whom was thirty-four. In seventeen cases, a total of twenty-four victims were released without charge after being detained for periods varying between an hour and a week. In five cases, all in Battambang, the five victims were kept in detention and charged with offences related to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a group that launched an armed attack in Phnom Penh in November 2000. In the final case, five people were detained but four were subsequently released. The other, a leading SRP candidate, was kept in detention and charged with offenses relating to land grabbing.

4 Report on Cambodian Commune Elections 2002, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, April 2002.

5 Conclusions on the Findings of the Media Monitoring Unit of COMFREL, February 5, 2002

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