07/15/2008, 00.00
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Violence and terror in Cambodia electoral campaign

Over the weekend, two episodes ignited the political atmosphere: on Friday, it was the assassination of a well-known journalist of the opposition, while on Sunday two thugs splashed acid in the face of a majority representative. On July 27, the country will be summoned to the ballot box to elect its new government.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Just under two weeks from the vote, the violence is increasing in Cambodia and hopes for a peaceful electoral campaign are dwindling. Last weekend, the country was shaken by two bloody events: on Friday, July 11, a well-known local journalist and his son were killed in the heart of the city centre by two assassins who came up beside their vehicle and opened fire; on Sunday, a government leader was the victim of an acid attack.

According to some human rights activists, the assassination of Khim Sambo, a central figure at Moneaksela Khmer (editor's note: Khmer Conscience), a newspaper aligned with the main opposition leader Sam Rainsy, was connected to a strategy aimed at creating a widespread climate of tension and terror in view of the vote. In the past, the journalist had written about cases of corruption involving top level political leaders, while the director of the newspaper for which he worked was denounced recently by foreign minister Hor Namhong, for "defamation".

Sunday morning, the violence touched a representative of the governing party, headed by the former Khmer Rouge member Hun Sen. At the end of a campaign event, Ngor Srun, the secretary of the Cambodian People's Party and a close collaborator of deputy prime minister Sok An, had acid thrown into his face, causing serious wounds. He is now under medical care in Thailand, but it seems that his life is not in danger; according to the doctors he has severe wounds on the left side of his face. Some witnesses say that the political leader was approached by two people on a motorcycle, who threw the acid on him and then fled, without pursuit, through the streets of the capital. The reason for the attack is not yet known: no one has claimed responsibility, but an anonymous source affirms that there was no political motivation, but it was instead caused by a "family problem".

The one thing that is certain is that these two episodes in the past few days have ignited the political climate in the country: political analysts recall that criminal episodes generally strike "members of the opposition", and although they emphasise that the climate is "changing and uncertain", they are betting that the governing party will win the upcoming elections, as before in 1998 and 2003.

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