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In Campaign, Some Promises Clearer Than Others

Supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party dance under portraits of the party leaders, from left, Chea Sim, Hun Sen and Heng Samrin, during an election campaign in Phnom Penh, file photo.
TAKEO Province - In Takeo province, three political parties are vying for votes in the July 28 election. In interviews with VOA Khmer, villagers in Rovieng district say they are listening to the campaign promises, but many remain skeptical that they will be fulfilled once their votes are cast.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party is campaigning on pledges to build more roads, schools, health centers and pagodas, if it wins in Sunday’s election. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says it will increase wages for civil servants and garment workers, as well as putting in place a pension system for retiring employees. Representatives of the royalist Funcinpec relied more on past achievements than it did on making future promises.

Ou Soknea, a 26-year-old, who sat weaving silk under her wooden, stilted home in Sla village, said she liked the message of the CPP.

“They help build cement roads, dig canals and sometimes provide free medical services to us,” she said. But she would also like to see the next administration build a school in her village, because her children walk too far to attend classes.

Prak Seab, 69, said she wants little more than peace, having survived the destruction of decades of war. “At my age, I am no longer afraid, but I care about my descendants,” she said.

To voters like her, the CPP’s messages of peace resonate. Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly said the CPP is responsible for peace in the country, and he has warned that a win by the opposition could see the country devolve into war.

And the CPP appears to have widespread support in Takeo, where many villagers, especially village chiefs, post the party’s logos and signs. Representatives from all three parties competing out here often walk house to house, looking to gain votes.

“I want the government to rehabilitate the road, because it’s too dusty now, and some parts of the village still have no access to electricity,” said Em Sovann, who is 34 and runs a small-scale shop near Chisor Mountain.

Many of the commune’s youths are migrant workers, or have jobs in factories away from their homes. The villages out here are peopled with children and the elderly, who suffer under endemic poverty and unemployment.

“Most of the people in my village are poor, but nobody helps them,” said Chan Chheng, 76. “I want the new government to provide us some food and clothes.” He said the current government only seems to help out once or twice every election cycle, or every five years. “They help us only when the election is approaching,” he said.

And for some villagers, the campaign promises matter little.

“Some promises were kept and some were not,” said Oung Heoung, 53. “Now they are promising to build a cement road, but I am not sure yet whether they will keep this promise. I’ve heard this promise since the last elections, but nothing has been done.”