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CPP Faces Financial Abuse Charges, Smaller Parties Find Niches and Union Leaders Demand Day Off to Vote

[Editor's note: For full audio to VOA Khmer's coverage of this story, scroll throughout.]

An independent monitoring group said Saturday it suspected the ruling Cambodian People's Party of using money from the national budget to bolster its politicking, as commune election campaigning entered its second week.

Smaller parties, meanwhile, focused their efforts in tight areas and union leaders stepped up pressure on factory owners to allow workers time off on Election Day, as VOA Khmer followed the run-up to commune elections.

In every election, the CPP is suspected of using money from the national coffers, Koul Panha, executive director for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, told VOA. And this one was no different.

"Actually, every time, the ruling party is the target for the monitors on the operations involved with state assets," Koul Panha said.

Chiem Yiep, chairman of the CPP's finance committee, said money for elections comes from members of the party, not the government budget.

"For the CPP, all active members must give contributions to the party," he said. "Other than that, our local parties might have some businesses which give us income."

To listen to Mony report in Khmer, .

Villagers in Takmau, Kandal province, meanwhile, say they have heard the same campaign promises for five years, with little result.

Back then, candidates said they would fix the roads, clean the environment and create jobs, villagers told VOA during a debate organized by the National Democratic Institute. Now, they are making the same promises.

To listen to Kong Soth report in Khmer, .

More than 400 people attended a similar debate in Siem Reap Sunday. All of the 12 parties campaigning for commune council positions were invited, officials said, but only three participated: the CPP, Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties.

A number of onlookers told VOA that the debates gave them a chance to see candidates face to face and that they would like to see more in the future. Cambodians increasingly are understanding that no one can tell them whom to vote for, observers say.

To listen to Kong Soth report in Khmer,

As VOA Khmer continued its election coverage, Sam Rainsy Party officials said they continued to experience intimidation and their complaints were being ignored.

Small parties, meanwhile, were focusing their efforts in tight areas where they might have a chance of winning, and villagers in Kampong Thom found a grenade dangling from a tractor in what political leaders suspected was a failed attempt to harm candidates.

To listen to Khemara Sok report in Khmer,

Nearly 8 million Cambodians are registered to vote, but some ethnic minorities told VOA Sunday they had not been issued voter IDs.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh has written a letter to his father, former King Norodom Sihanouk, complaining that the courts were poltically biased and had sentenced him unfairly to 18 months prison in absentia. His self-named party is emerging as a second opposition after the prince was ousted form Funcinpec, the government's coalition partner.

Prominent union leaders, meanwhile, said over the weekend they would file complaints in court for factories that don't allow their workers a day off to vote on Election Day, April 1.

To listen to Khemara Sok report in Khmer,