A CNRP official on Tuesday accused military officials of visiting hundreds of opposition activists, party members and supporters in Oddar Meanchey province and coercing them into thumbprinting statements to defect to the ruling party, a charge government and election committee officials quickly denied.
Moung Sarath, chief of the CNRP provincial working group, said party activists had told him that plainclothes soldiers driving vehicles with military license plates had traveled door to door—in some cases accompanied by village and commune chiefs—warning CNRP members and supporters to vote for the CPP.
“The soldiers forced our activists to give their thumbprints to defect to the [Cambodian] People’s Party over the last few days, and if our activists refused they said they would kill the whole family,” he said. “Our activists are scared.”
Defense Minister Tea Banh, however, said the complaint was baseless and an attempt to stir up trouble ahead of elections.
“This information is not true,” he said. “We will not open an investigation because this is not the first time the CNRP has accused the Cambodian People’s Party of doing the wrong thing.”
Mu Sochua, a senior CNRP leader, said she was aware of the allegations, and directed inquiries to Mr. Sarath.
Mr. Sarath said some of those targeted had agreed to the statements to assuage the soldiers, but said they would vote for the CNRP in secret. He declined to identify them, saying he feared for their safety.
He said he did not know who the soldiers were or which bases they worked on, but said the harassment was continuing in Banteay Ampil and Anlong Veng districts and Samraong City. He said those targeted had been urged to keep quiet, but that no other protection was being offered.
Haing Meng, governor of Banteay Ampil district, confirmed that soldiers from military bases 251 and 41 had met with the families of soldiers to encourage them to double-check that the paperwork they needed to vote was in order. But he denied that any villagers had been intimidated to vote for a specific party.
Officials on the provincial election committee had received complaints alleging abuse of power, but had found no evidence to support the charge, committee chief Ching Samphou said.
“We sent our officials to the area to investigate,” Mr. Samphou said. “Military officials went to the area and brought some gifts for the poor people, but they did not threaten to kill any activists.”
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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