[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national
polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The
"Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and
Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This
is the first in a two-part series examining the difficulties faced by each of
the 11 competing parties.]
Less than two weeks away from Election Day, only the ruling
Cambodian People's Party and its coalition partner Funcinpec say they face zero
obstacles to their campaigns. Nine other parties, large and small, have
complained of irregularities and other constraints plaguing their efforts.
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Chantha said the
party has faced difficulties in the distribution of leaflets and knock-downs of
political signs, from the capital to the provinces.
His activists have not been able to distribute platform
information in Phnom Penh
markets, Muth Chantha said, a complaint shared by other parties, especially the
Human Rights, Sam Rainsy and the Khmer Democratic parties.
The greatest challenge, though, has been the absence of the
party's leader, he said.
"The first challenge for us is the absence of Prince
Norodom Ranariddh," Muth Chantha said. "It means we aren't equally
armed in the campaign."
Human Rights Party Vice President Keo Remy said the main
challenges to his party were "threats."
Activists have been threatened in Kampong Cham, Prey Veng
and Kampong Speu provinces, as well as in the capital, Keo Remy said, including
threats from village chiefs.
Violence, injuries and verbal threats have all been reported
by his activists, he said.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said that in the face of such
irregularities, the party has minimum liberties.
"We don't expect the election will be free and
fair," he said. "And we don't have confidence in the National
Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc,
noted that the pressure of campaign irregularities has mostly come against
parties outside of the government.
"Even though we have not noted many irregularities
compared to previous elections, the ruling party has tried to disturb the
opposition, like knocking down political signs, and this requires efficient
action by the NEC."
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nith said that there are
irregularities, but they are the same reported in previous elections: sign
knock-downs, threats, vote-buying.
"But there aren't any political threats, and now we are
investigating some cases for which we've received complaints," he said.
CPP lawmaker Chiem Yeap said the ruling party faced no
challenges in the campaign. It had facilities to conduct a campaign across the
country, presenting its political platform for voters and holding meetings.
One challenge was that Funcinpec had attacked the CPP
"like the opposition," he said.
Prince Sisowath Sereyroth, second deputy of Funcinpec, said
the party had no problems in the first weeks of the campaign, "because we
do not attack any parties."
"Of course, technical problems are unavoidable,"
he said. Funcinpec instead faced budget problems, he said.
Small parties too face budget constraints as they campaign.