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Cablegate: Sam Rainsy: Disenfranchised Voters, Kem Sokha, And

VZCZCXRO9257
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0778/01 1590427
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080427Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8529
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000778

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM CB
SUBJECT: SAM RAINSY: DISENFRANCHISED VOTERS, KEM SOKHA, AND
SAVE OUR STUPA

REF: PHNOM PENH 765

1. (SBU) Summary. In a June 6 meeting with the Ambassador,
Sam Rainsy and Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) National Assembly Whip
Son Chhay conveyed concerns over voter disenfranchisement in
the 2008 national elections because of voting registration
problems and also discussed the lack of "proper
representation" in the National Assembly. Sam Rainsy
complained the voter registration process underway is
controlled by Cambodian People's Party (CPP) village- and
commune-level leaders who deliberately pass over non-CPP
party voters when compiling local voter lists. Voter
representation in the legislature, meanwhile, dilutes as
Cambodia's population increases but the number of National
Assembly seats remains at 123. On Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy and
Son Chhay said the Human Rights Party founder was already
losing momentum. Rainsy also asked for the Ambassador's help
in saving a memorial stupa commemorating a grenade attack on
an SRP rally that killed 16 people in 1997. The stupa was
placed in front of the National Assembly building seven years
ago. New plans by the Phnom Penh Governor to beautify the
area do not include the SRP stupa. End summary.

2. (SBU) During a June 6 meeting with the Ambassador, Sam
Rainsy and National Assembly SRP Whip Son Chhay voiced
concerns over voter registration activity that appears to be
skipping over eligible, non-CPP voters. The April 1, 2007
commune council elections showed a glaring need for updated,
accurate and complete voter registration lists. (SRP
maintains that as many as 2.5 million Cambodians had been
disenfranchised in the April 1 elections, many of them due to
voter registration list problems.) Cambodia's National
Election Committee (NEC) is responding to the problem by
sending out new voter notification letters to village chiefs.
Chiefs are then expected to document names of voters in
their villages mostly by going door to door to collect
information. Sam Rainsy reports that village chiefs are
generally familiar enough with their area residents that they
document voters who are away from home working in remote
fields or who have temporarily migrated for work or other
reasons but who are certain to return for elections.
However, CPP village chiefs are reportedly not recording
non-CPP voters in these situations. The CPP now controls
1,591 chief positions out of 1,621 communes and sangkats
across Cambodia after the April 1 elections.

3. (SBU) As mentioned by SRP Secretary General Mu Sochua on
May 31 (reftel), the SRP is pushing for an increase in the
number of National Assembly seats from 123 to at least 135
prior to the 2008 election. Son Chhay told the Ambassador
the basis for calculating this number is a formula stipulated
in Cambodia's Law on the Election of the National Assembly
and on projected population increases since the first seat
allocation in 1993. Sam Rainsy noted one MP will represent
118,000 people in 2008 if the seats are not increased -- a
constituency he says is too large for MPs to effectively and
fully represent. (Note: The government has said that the
number of National Assembly seats will be resolved after the
2008 census -- which will be finalized too late to affect the
national elections next year. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Son Chhay recently met with presidential candidate
Kem Sokha and believes Kem Sokha and his Human Rights Party
have lost initial presidential campaign momentum. Kem
Sokha's campaign rides on his popularity from the Cambodian
Center for Human Rights -- popularity that was high when Kem
Sokha was not running for political office. Now that Kem
Sokha is on the campaign trail he is discouraged by
unimpressive support compared to the extensive political
networks and popularity that other candidates (read: Sam
Rainsy) have built up over years. Kem Sokha recently
returned from a campaign tour in the U.S. where he drummed up
only USD 10,000 per month from his U.S. supporters, according
to Son Chhay. (Note: Kem Sokha was planning to hold a party
congress next month, but reportedly has been denied
permission due to his inability to comply with all the
necessary administrative requirements. End Note.)

5. (SBU) Sam Rainsy requested the Ambassador's support to
save a memorial stupa commemorating a 1997 grenade attack on
an SRP rally for judicial independence. The attack killed 16
people and injured 114, including an Amcit. In what was
considered a small political victory, the stupa was erected
in front of the National Assembly building by SRP members
seven years ago. The Phnom Penh Governor recently publicized
plans to beautify the area by creating a garden and
increasing parking space. New plans do not include the
memorial stupa. Sam Rainsy purports the CPP wants to get rid
of the memorial before the 2008 elections because it

PHNOM PENH 00000778 002 OF 002


symbolizes dissention. The Ambassador told Sam Rainsy he
will meet with the Phnom Penh Governor to express his support
for the memorial.

6. (SBU) Comment. Post believes the Royal Government of
Cambodia's (RGC) proposed plan regarding the 1997 grenade
attack memorial stupa is a trial balloon to gauge the level
of response from civil society, the SRP and donors. The RGC
is aware that the attack's unresolved status evokes
persistent sensitivity in Washington. If plans to remove the
memorial move forward, the Ambassador will discuss the matter
with RGC officials above the level of the Phnom Penh
Governor, including Prime Minister Hun Sen. End comment.
MUSSOMELI

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