Violence and rule-breaking mar Cambodia poll campaign

Cambodia’s election committee accused parties contesting local polls for breaking campaign rules today as violence continued to mar the run-up to the vote.

Cambodia’s election committee accused parties contesting local polls for breaking campaign rules today as violence continued to mar the run-up to the vote.

Another rival to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen was found dead in rural Cambodia, the 19th candidate or activist found killed in the past 12 months.

The body of Vat Din, 55, a candidate for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was found late yesterday floating in the Mekong River in the northern province of Stung Treng.

‘‘We cannot say for sure it a political killing yet, but we are investigating,’’ said Phi Thach, the party’s cabinet chief.

According to colleagues, Vat Din was last seen Friday, the first day of the official campaign period, going to the Mekong River to place fish traps.

Last week, New-York based Human Rights Watch urged international donors to put more pressure on the Cambodian government to protect candidates and investigate slayings in the campaign for the country’s first-ever local elections.

All but one of the reported killings have been of supporters of parties competing against the CPP.

The polls, on February 3, are seen as a test for the war torn country’s fledging democracy, currently dominated by the CPP.

The National Election Committee, which has been accused by the opposition of bias toward the CPP, today criticised all eight parties contesting the vote for an array of alleged campaign violations.

In a statement aired on state television and radio, the committee said that in the first three days of the campaign, parties had broken rules by disseminated leaflets bearing pictures of Cambodia’s revered king, and by playing video and audio tapes criticising opponents and other political parties.

’’Such acts incite confrontation and damage the calm atmosphere, solidarity, national unity and reconciliation,’’ the committee said.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh denied that his royalist Funcinpec party was using images of his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, to attract votes.

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