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Election Observer in Hiding After Threat

A provincial election observer has been in hiding for nearly a week, fearing arrest after an argument with a relative of a ruling party village chief in Kampot province.

Police say they are seeking the arrest of Chea Som Borun, 25, an observer for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections and the son of a Sam Rainsy Party activist, for assault.

Human rights officials say the threat of his arrest is political.

Police allege Chea Som Borun struck Phan Sophear, the relative of a Cambodian People's Party village chief, in an altercation the night before the national election.

Witnesses told the human rights group Licahdo Phan Sophear was not hurt.

"If Chea Som Borun is arrested, it will only further highlight the level of intimidation surrounding these elections and the continuing misuse of the courts for political reasons by the government," Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in a statement.

Hang Puthea, executive directior of Nicfec, said Chea Som Borun he was seeking to find a way to bring him out of hiding without arrest.

Chea Som Borun's father has asked other villagers to file a complaint against their village chief over an alleged land sale. This may be one reason Chea Som Borun was threatened with his arrest, Chea Pov, his father, said.

The case was not related to politics, but Chea Som Borun was being sought for assault, Tem Savuth, police chief of Ponhea Leu district, Kandal province.

Om Sam Arth, an investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the argument came a day before the election and stemmed from politics.