Rights group claims Cambodian election campaign unfair
By Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Phnom Penh

Threats, intimidation and unequal media access had hurt the Cambodian opposition, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a press release Saturday, a day before national elections.

"The near-monopoly on broadcast media for the ruling Cambodian People's Party's (CPP), bias within the electoral apparatus, and harassment, intimidation, and coerced defections of opposition party members undermines the credibility of the elections," it said.

"Elections in Cambodia under existing conditions devalue the process," Brad Adams, HRW Asia director, said. "Election observers from genuine democracies would never accept at home the CPP's grip on the media or the fear and intimidation faced."

Despite an ongoing police investigation, it blamed the CPP for the murder of opposition journalist Khim Sambo earlier this month, saying the killing "appears to have been timed ... to have the maximum chilling effect."

It also accused the CPP of making "lucrative offers of high-paying government positions" to coerce key opposition officials to defect and threatening those who did not.

However it conceded there had been a decrease in violence compared to previous elections, claiming this was because the CPP was expected to win the elections so handsomely.

On July 17 the National Election Committee released a statement accusing 13 broadcasters of bias, including Bayon TV, owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen's daughter, and the CPP's Apsara TV, as well as pro-opposition US-funded stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

The CPP is touted to take up to 80 of 123 seats nationally and thousands of international observers have arrived to monitor polls.