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Cablegate: Cambodia Elections: Campaign Season Snapshot From

VZCZCXRO8168
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0575/01 1981104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161104Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0079

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PHNOM PENH 000575

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL
USAID FOR ASIA BUREAU
NSC FOR L. PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA ELECTIONS: CAMPAIGN SEASON SNAPSHOT FROM
PARTS OF TWO PROVINCES

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 558
B. PHNOM PENH 554

1. (SBU) Summary: Emboffs recently conducted pre-election
monitoring trips in mainly rural parts of two populous
provinces during the official campaign season for Cambodia's
July 27 National Assembly elections, noting intense Cambodian
People's Party campaigning throughout the areas traveled.
Out of six Commune Election Committees (CEC) with whom
Emboffs met, all six reported they had not received a single
formal election campaign complaint. During a meeting with
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members in a rural district of Prey
Veng province, a local SRP leader stated that the district
party office has received election-related grievances but has
not submitted complaints to CECs. The Prey Veng Provincial
Election Committee (PEC) chief stated that few complaints
have been submitted to CECs or to his PEC because he has been
encouraging party leaders to reach mutual understanding among
themselves to avoid election-related conflicts. Though
complaints do arise, the atmosphere in Prey Veng to date is
reflective of most of Cambodia this election campaign -
peaceful (except for the rare and short-lived megaphone
contest between rival parties) and with considerably fewer
serious incidents of threats, intimidation or violence than
in 2003. A July 14 candidate debate including four of the
major parties confirms post's assessment that the major
issues in the campaign are corruption, inflation, job
creation, and more economic development to bring Cambodians
out of poverty. Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Roughly halfway into the month-long official
campaign period for Cambodia's July 27 National Assembly
elections, Emboffs observed seemingly well-coordinated and
funded CPP campaign efforts during recently conducted
monitoring visits to two nearby provinces, Kampong Cham and
Prey Veng. Kampong Cham province is represented by 18
parliamentary seats, more than any other province in
Cambodia, and Prey Veng by 11, the third-highest number of
seats for one province. In 2003, the CPP won eight of the
seats in Kampong Cham, FUNCINPEC five, and SRP five. In Prey
Veng, the CPP won six seats, FUNCINPEC three, and SRP two.
Emboffs met with CEC and village members in communes where
the SRP had won positions during the 2007 commune council
elections or where local human rights NGO Adhoc stated they
had received reports of election or political party-related
complaints.

CPP's Campaigning Ubiquitous in Some Areas
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) On some rural roads in both Kampong Cham and Prey
Veng, Emboffs passed through some villages where CPP blue
flag campaign stickers or signs were posted on nearly every
house and kiosk, and in a few villages the blue flags were
tacked to nearly every tree along some dirt roads. In the
Soutip commune of Kampong Cham province, small CPP flags hung
on many trees, fences and houses, each wrapped in a plastic
cover sheet. The Soutip CEC reported 8,504 voters in the
commune. During the 2007 commune council elections the SRP
won five out of nine commune council seats including the
chief, first deputy and second deputy council positions; the
CPP won four. Emboffs noticed some, but fewer, FUNCINPEC,
Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), and SRP signs in Soutip. Some
trees and fences were decorated with SRP signs in a similar
fashion as those with CPP signs.

4. (SBU) While driving through some villages, Emboffs noted
a few houses with large CPP campaign posters, strings of blue
CPP flags across the yard, and the blaring of campaign
messages from loudspeakers. These appeared to be local
campaign headquarters, or the houses of prominent CPP members
or supporters. Emboffs observed no houses adorned in this
manner with propaganda of political parties other than the
CPP in the parts of the few villages visited during these
trips; however, during a later trip through towns in Kampot
province, houses were similarly decked out with FUNCINPEC,
NRP, and SRP flags and signs.

"Eyes Closed" to SUVs Campaigning Without License Plates
--------------------------------------------- -----------

5. (SBU) On National Highways 1 from Phnom Penh to Prey
Veng, and routes 6 and 7 from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham,
Emboffs spotted tens of late-model SUVs with large CPP
emblems pasted to side and rear windows. Approximately half

PHNOM PENH 00000575 002 OF 004


of such vehicles had license plates removed. Also spotted
were vehicles sporting SRP and Human Rights Party (HRP)
propaganda, though far fewer than those of the CPP. Emboffs
did not observe SRP or HRP vehicles with license plates
removed, but did see one vehicle with a green Royal
Government of Cambodia license plate that was decorated with
large SRP campaign stickers. (Note: A July 11 Cambodia
Daiy article quoted a recent letter from SRP Parliamentarian
Son Chhay to Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng stating, "There
are some civil servants, police officers and military
officers who removed (license plates) from state vehicles in
order to (conduct campaigning)." In the same article, MOI
spokesperson Khieu Sopheak was reported to have stated that
officials who had spent their own money on vehicles may do as
they wish with the vehicle, but that they should remove state
or military license plates. Regarding whether driving a
vehicle without license plates violated Cambodia's traffic
laws, Khieu Sopheak reportedly stated that it is up to the
traffic police to enforce the law. In the same article,
Phnom Penh Municipal Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoer was
quoted: "We cannot stop (vehicles with plates removed) during
the campaign rally; otherwise they will be disappointed. If
we can forgive them, we close our eyes." End note.)

Other Parties' Signage on Roads Not Homes
-----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Emboffs saw party signs for each of the 11 parties
running in the national elections while driving to and
through Kampong Cham and Prey Veng along national highways
and some village roads. However, it was observed that few
homes had SRP or HRP signs affixed directly to them; and not
one house was spotted that had a Norodom Ranariddh Party
(NRP), FUNCINPEC, or smaller, lesser-known party sign pasted
on it. In parts of Smaong Cheung commune of Prey Veng
province that Emboffs visited, many houses were observed with
CPP stickers pasted on them, fewer houses with no party
stickers, and no houses with a non-CPP party sticker affixed
directly to them. One kiosk owner with a large HRP sign
posted in front of her house and kiosk close to the road
stated the sign was not in her yard and that the party had
asked her for permission before erecting the sign. The kiosk
and adjoining house had no other party sign affixed. At a
different kiosk that had no signs posted, the shopkeeper
stated that CPP members had come to her family house asking
her to post a CPP sign but she declined. She said she was
momentarily afraid when she told the CPP members "no" but
they did not bother her or force her to put up the sign.

7. Smaong Cheung commune in Prey Veng province has 10,752
registered voters across its 17 villages. Adhoc recommended
Emboffs conduct pre-election monitoring in the village
because the NGO had received reports that Smaong Cheung
village chiefs had been neglecting to hand out Voter
Information Notice (VIN) cards to SRP members. During
interviews with about 15 village members, all but one
reported that they had received their VIN cards; the CEC
stated they had not received any complaints. In the 2007
commune council elections, the CPP won nine out of eleven
seats in Smaong Cheung, the SRP won the first deputy chief
seat, and the NRP won the second deputy chief seat.

Villager's House Doubles As Polling Station
-------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Twenty-two out of 26 total planned polling stations
in Smaong Cheung commune will be located at the homes of
local residents. Emboffs visited one of the future polling
stations, a typical Cambodian-style wooden house on stilts
located off a dirt footpath several houses back from the
dusty main village road. The polling area will be set up
underneath the house, a space that is currently occupied by
rows of chopped wood, a raised wooden platform, and other
household items. The resident stated that her home had been
chosen as a polling station for previous elections and was
selected because of its central location.

SRP Afraid Its Party Agents Will Be Bought?
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The six CECs we met with reported that their local
SRP leaders had not yet submitted the name of the party's
local party agents but that other parties represented in
their communes had already submitted party agent names.
(Note: Party agents are defined as partisan observers who
primarily represent and protect the interests of their party.

PHNOM PENH 00000575 003 OF 004


They help identify and expose mistakes and rigging at the
polling stations on election day. End Note.) In the Soutip
commune of Kampong Cham province, where the SRP won the
chief, first and second deputy chief, and two other seats in
the 2007 commune council election, the CEC chief stated that
the SRP had not yet submitted party agent names in their
commune because the SRP had less than 1,000 members there.
He stated that three SRP commune council members and many
others in the commune have left the SRP and joined the CPP.

10. (SBU) In Preah Sdach district of Prey Veng province, the
district SRP committee chief stated that the party was hiding
the identity of SRP party agents until closer to the
elections because he fears local village and commune chiefs
would convince the party agents "not to do their duties
well." During the same meeting, one SRP member who planned
to act as a party agent stated that he was not worried for
his personal security as a party agent.

SRP Complaining But Not to CEC
------------------------------

11. (SBU) Within five communes where Adhoc told Emboffs they
had received reports of non-specific "discrimination" against
non-CPP members, removal of non-CPP party signs, and places
where village and commune chiefs had "taught" residents to
vote for the CPP, and a sixth commune where the SRP had won a
majority of commune seats, the local CECs reported that they
had not received formal complaints from residents or parties.
During a meeting with Preah Sdach district SRP members, one
man stated that he resolved a recent politically related
problem on his own instead of filing a complaint with the CEC
because the persons involved were his relatives. He said the
relatives were authorities in his village and they told him
that if he did not leave the SRP, they would try to inhibit
him from obtaining administrative documents when he needed
them. A different SRP member at the meeting stated that he
had been receiving anonymous phone calls from a person
promising him money to leave the SRP. He said that he did
not file a complaint for two reasons: first, he did not know
the identity of the caller; second, he reported the calls to
Prey Veng SRP Parliamentarian Chea Poch who told him to
ignore the calls.

12. (SBU) The Preah Sdach district SRP chief stated that
party members and other villagers are afraid to submit
complaints against CPP members because written complaints to
the CEC require detailed information regarding where and when
the incident happened, and the identities of the alleged
victim and alleged perpetrator. He stated that those with
grievances are afraid of exposing their identities through
such complaints. He did not elaborate on the nature of the
grievances. However, the meeting took place together with
approximately 30 SRP members from the district, and none came
forward stating that they themselves were afraid to submit a
complaint.

Teachers Demonstrate How To Vote CPP
------------------------------------

13. (SBU) SRP members in Preah Sdach district reported that
Lvea commune high school students, some of whom were of
voting age, had come home with National Assembly election
ballot "worksheets" replicating actual ballots except that
only the CPP was represented in name and logo on the
worksheet. The students reported that their Ta Kork village
high school teachers had used the worksheets to teach them
how to vote. One of the SRP members told Emboffs that when
he went to file a complaint about the incident to the local
CEC, the CEC told him that they did not have any of the
"1202" official complaint forms. He then planned to file his
complaint when he attended one of the CEC's regular meetings
of political party representatives but when he went to the
most recently scheduled meeting, no one showed up but him.
The district SRP office did not have any complaint forms
either -- the district SRP chief told Emboffs that community
members have to obtain the 1202 forms from the CEC. (Note:
He apparently had received no complaint forms from the SRP
party apparatus. End Note.)

Prey Veng PEC Promotes Mutual Understanding
-------------------------------------------

14. (SBU) During a meeting with Prey Veng PEC members, the
PEC chief stated that he held weekly meetings with
representatives of the nine political parties running for

PHNOM PENH 00000575 004 OF 004


seats in the province, and that he told the parties to
promote mutual understanding among themselves to avoid
election-related conflicts. He stated that Prey Veng
residents know how to submit complaints to their CECs or PEC
because he had instructed party reps to distribute
election-related information to their members, information
that included how to submit complaints. The PEC added that
if villagers have complaints, they should submit them to the
party to which they belong. (Note: The PEC chief told
Emboffs that if international observers see violations of
election law or procedure on election day, they should report
it directly to the NEC, not to the PEC. According to the
Cambodian Code of Conduct for Electoral Observers, observers
may report any apparent violation to the Election Committee
structure at any of its three levels. End note.)

Prey Veng PEC's One Complaint Resolved
--------------------------------------

15. (SBU) The Prey Veng PEC reported it has thus far
received one complaint from Roung Domrei commune where the
SRP alleged that MOI Secretary of State Prum Sokha handed out
gifts such as rice and sarongs to voters. The PEC dismissed
the complaint stating the PEC found that Prum Sokha had
distributed CPP logo t-shirts and hats that are not deemed
"gifts" as handouts of money, rice or sarongs are considered.
Prum Sokha was reported to have handed out items during a
groundbreaking ceremony of a Japanese government funded
school. The PEC told Emboff that Prum Sokha had also
distributed notebooks and pencils to students of the school.

NDI-Debate in Prey Veng: Cambodians' Concerns Televised
Nationwide
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

16. (U) In a candidate debate held in Prey Veng's Kampong
Trabaek district July 14, the candidates and citizens posed
unrehearsed questions which are indicative of the issues
being raised in this campaign. The major opposition parties
(SRP and HRP in this debate) raised corruption, citing a
recent study that USD 300-500 million is lost every year to
the government's coffers due to corruption. The high cost of
food, fertilizer, and gasoline were also highlighted in the
debate as were programs to create more jobs or build on the
country's recent economic development. One citizen asked the
candidates if they would pass the current draft
Anti-Corruption Law and, if they could not, what were their
plans for stepping down. Enforcement of Cambodia's
immigration laws was a big topic among the debating
candidates. SRP candidate and current MP Chea Poch
highlighted the existence of over 1,400 Vietnamese families
in a nearby river town. (Note: To date, the rhetoric has
been strong on immigration but has not turned ugly. End
Note.)

Comment
-------

17. (SBU) During the first two weeks of the official
campaign season, in parts of Kampong Cham and Prey Veng, the
CPP looked to be spending more of its campaign money on
highly visible party advertisements -- giving the appearance
of other parties being left in the dust in these pockets of
the electorate. However, it is still early, and with less
money to spend within the non-dominant parties, they may be
making decisions to wait out a spending spree on party
stickers and flags until the right moment closer to the
elections. One district SRP leader stated that their current
strategy is not the sticker-on-every-tree approach, but
rather to hand out leaflets, fliers, and small party
information cards in a more subtle effort. As Post's
pre-monitoring trips continue around the country, including
completed trips to parts of Phnom Penh, Takeo, Kampot, and
other parts of Prey Veng, Emboffs have noted strong SRP,
FUNCINPEC, and NRP showings in regards to visible campaign
propaganda.
MUSSOMELI

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