Bomb fails to derail Cambodian elections

A SMALL home-made bomb exploded outside the headquarters of Cambodia’s royalist FUNCINPEC party yesterday, marring an otherwise peaceful election day in the troubled southeast Asian nation.

The discovery of two grenades in a plastic bag near the Royal Palace dealt a further blow to the fledgling democracy and its slow, sometimes violent journey back from the horrors of the 1970s Khmer Rouge genocide.

One person was slightly injured in the blast which left scorch marks on pavement around 30 yards from the FUNCINPEC gates, police said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier, and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) looks set to win another five years in power, with support coming from many voters who revere him for overseeing the final Khmer Rouge surrender in 1998.

Full results are not due until August 8 because of the problems of retrieving ballot-boxes (in some cases by elephant) from remote jungle outposts. However, a fair idea of the outcome should be available by this evening.

While a Hun Sen victory is all but assured, diplomats say robust campaigns by FUNCINPEC and Sam Rainsy mean he is unlikely to win the two-thirds of seats needed for outright control of the 123-seat National Assembly.

Although critics say he rules with an iron fist, Hun Sen has brought much-needed stability to a country suffering the legacy of 30 years of civil war, including the Khmer Rouge genocide. An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of starvation, disease or torture in Pol Pot’s ultra-Maoist rural labour camps.

“It is a proud moment for the nation as a whole that the election was conducted in an atmosphere of stability and security, with no oppression, intimidation or violence at all,” Hun Sen said in a television statement.

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