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New Party Meets Traditional Election Obstacles

The fledgling Human Rights Party said Friday supporters of the ruling Cambodian People's Party were tearing down party signs and preventing public assembly in cities and provinces across the country.

"Some authorities threatened that if the party dares set up its sign, they will arrest [the party members], and some other communes hired people with 10,000 riel or 20,000 riel each to come protest with sticks in their hands," said Human Rights Party Vice President Keo Remy.

"They used both their own threats and a police crackdown, and party signs were stolen," he said. "That is real discrimination against the Human Rights Party, but other parties' sign set-up is fine. It seems that they are worried over the increasing popularity of the party."

Such incidents are widely reported by smaller parties ahead of elections and often constitute local acts of intimidation. Bickering over party signs has led to violence in past election periods.

"Threats, vandalism and not maintaining safety and security for other political parties causes political discrimination," said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. "It will affect the policies of the election process in various cities and provinces across the country."