back in phnom penh

I arrived today (Saturday) safely back from Rattanakiri. After consultation with colleagues I decided to go back to be in Phnom Penh when the election takes place. Tomorrow is Election Day. I expect to go back to Rattanakiri soon after the election.

Currently I cannot connect my computer to the internet for some reasons. Therefore I reduce my email communication a bit. Hence I am walking with my floppy disk into the internet café. It is kind of elaborate to do copy or write down all the addresses.

National election is an important and crucial point in time for this country. In Cambodia’s recent history there was no election that did not involve violence in some way or the other.

I was happy enough to get a copy of the Cambodia Daily’s weekend edition. Others told me they could not get one anymore. This issue is titled “A Nation Decides”. The title page is covered with a picture of an old man in the lower part and background of the photo. The man is holding (or sitting behind) a young boy who has creased his hands and looks seriously and unusually concerned for a boy of about 6 years.

However, the Cambodia Daily reports a pre-election joint statement by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections and the Neutral, Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections. According to those important organizations in the nearly eight months leading up to the election 31 political activists have been killed. I am not sure whether or not it is a good thing that the victims are distributed almost evenly over the three big parties.

Their reports says that “this year we have seen an overall reduction of politically motivated killings and serious cases of election related intimidation, however, the forms of intimidation have become more subtle and sophisticated”. Other organizations are cited later on in the article who question the judgment that violence has decreased compared to previous elections.

The director of the national police made very clear earlier this week that he would use force to suppress any post-election protests. I met some people who are really afraid and started to store water and food. However, most of the people I met expect that the election will go well.

Most shops will be closed tomorrow and many people travel to their home province to cast their ballot. I plan to carry out my private election observation for some time. I though it would be a good thing to cruise the city with a moto driver for some time and take some pictures. Other than that I will likely spend a number of hours in my room to catch up with the minutes of all the meetings in Rattanakiri. And to plan how to continue. And maybe to write some report about those very few days in Rattanakiri.

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