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Group Worried at CPP's Early 'Internal' Election; Nation Three Days From Polls

Rights organizations said Thursday they were concerned over a ruling party decision to conduct pre-election, 'internal' voting exercises with only three days remaining before nationwide elections.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders said violence must not be tolerated, Bantey Meanchey voters witnessed debate and residents of a Kampot commune readied themselves for Sunday's vote.

Election watchdogs told VOA Thursday they were concerned that a pre-election exercise by Cambodian People's Party officials threatened the fairness of the upcoming elections.

CPP members in four communes distributed cards that look nearly exactly like those that will be used in Sunday's election, but they instructed would-be voters to mark a box for the CPP, observers said.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Mu Sochua called the tactic a "coercion of the people," but government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the exercise was only a way of explaining to people how to vote.

To listen to Mean Veasna report in Khmer, .

Mu Sochua also told VOA Thursday that violence toward the opposition had increased in recent days.

"In the past two or three days, the threats have turned to killings, and it does not matter what party is in question," she said, citing a shooting death, a grenade attack and a stabbing.

Commune elections in 2002 saw eight to 10 killings, while this year's saw at least five, Koul Panha, executive director for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said.

To listen to Suon Kanika report in Khmer, .

Without the killings, the campaigning had a number of irregularities, party leaders told VOA. Gift-giving and voter card theft were high among the non-violent violations, and psychological threats and violence were sure to have an effect on voters, observers said.

To listen to Seng Ratana report in Khmer, .

Villagers in Bantey Meanchey partook in the next debate in a series being held in 10 different provinces.

To listen to Chun Sakada report in Khmer, .

Villagers in Koun Sat commune, Kampot district, meanwhile, prepared to vote.

"I want a commune chief who can lead well, and know the people, who are rich, and who are poor, who are bad, who are good," villager Lorn Pan told VOA. "That is all I want."

To listen to Mony report in Khmer, .