Saturday will be an official day of rest for the candidates
and voters, but a joint statement by election monitors warned Friday of
last-minute attempts by political parties to bribe, cajole or threaten voters.
A joint statement led by the Committee for Free and Fair
Elections called the atmosphere ahead of Sunday's elections "tense and
insecure," especially as a military standoff on the Thai border continues
and in the wake of the murder of opposition journalist Kim Sambor.
The Saturday night ahead of elections is colloquially
referred to as the "Night of the Barking Dogs," when strangers move
through the darkness of villages in their persuasive efforts.
"Regarding these elections, civil society organizations
are concerned that political parties will give money and/or materials to voters
not only to attract them to voter for their party but also to prevent certain
voters from going to cast their ballot," the monitors said.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has warned of a clean-finger
campaign, alleging ruling Cambodian People's Party supporters are offering
money to people to prevent them from voting, and from having their fingers died
with ink in the process.
Election monitors assailed "the lack of neutrality of
most government officials, authorities, armed force personnel and national
police, who carry out activities supporting the ruling party and against other
The National Election Committee said the statement by the
monitors belied a relatively more peaceful campaign.
"I don't know the grounds behind this report," NEC
Secretary-General Tep Nitha said. "However, during this campaign, it was
very positive compared to previous elections."
This year, the commune election committees received 180
complaints, compared to 575 in the 2003 general election, he said. The NEC
received 35 complaints this year, compared to 53 in 2003.
"We have a plan to strengthen the security in
collaboration with authorities," Tep Nitha said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak
recognized that the pre-election period had some problems, but less than in
"Our commitment is, we are responsible for
making sure every suspect must be brought in and punished by the law," he