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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Cambodia election violence condemned

Opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, on the campaign trail

The London based human rights group, Amnesty International, has condemned what it calls the widespread intimidation of opposition parties by Cambodia's security forces in the run-up to the country's general election on Sunday.

The BBC's Simon Ingram: 'Peace has long been a rare commodity here'
Amnesty says opposition politicians and activists have been threatened, beaten and shot dead.

The group says it has uncovered clear evidence of intimidation and violence by the security forces during the election campaign.

Vicious abuses

[ image: Prince Norodam Ranariddh addresses supporters]
Prince Norodam Ranariddh addresses supporters
Just two days ago, the group's workers say they found members of Prince Ranariddh's Funcinpec party who had been beaten viciously in police custody.

The organisation has urged the international community and the 600 international officials monitoring the elections to condemn the abuses.

Observers say that the international community has been reluctant to criticise the election, unwilling to jeopardise the poll.

Five years ago, the United Nations poured more than a billion dollars into Cambodia to begin what it hoped would be a new era of peace and democracy.

[ image: Hun Sen's show of strength at a mass rally]
Hun Sen's show of strength at a mass rally
But there was a big setback in 1997 when Prince Ranariddh, Cambodia's co-premier, was ousted from power by his rival Hun Sen.

If Sunday's elections fail, it would a be a huge embarassment for the country's international donors.

The BBC's Simon Ingram: 'Cambodia's prayers for peace'
Amnesty International believes that Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's party are using Sunday's general elections to cement their power and destroy all opposition.

And the organisation insists that as long as the world stands by, Cambodia is in danger of remaining in the hands of an authoritarian leader with a dictatorial regime.

March for peace

[ image: Buddhists march for peaceful elections]
Buddhists march for peaceful elections
Meanwhile, about 2,500 holy men and women, led by Cambodia's supreme Buddhist patriarch, the Venerable Maha Ghosananada, have completed a six-day march for peace.

As the election campaign came to a close, the Buddhists paraded into Phnom Penh, stopping the traffic as they prayed for peaceful polls.

"We want the election to go ahead without violence and people killing each other," said 21-year-old monk Nget Vanarith.

Election campaigning in Cambodia will draw to a close on Friday.

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