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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Cambodia election campaign closes

Buddhist monks pray for peaceful elections

The main political parties in Cambodia have been staging rallies and motorcades to bolster support in the run-up to Sunday's General Election.

The BBC's Simon Ingram: 'Peace has long been a rare commodity here'
Supporters crammed onto the streets of Phnom Penh, on the last day of official campaigning.

The prime minister, Hun Sen, is seeking to legitimise the authority he secured after ousting his rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, from power last year.

[ image: Hun Sen's show of strength at a mass rally]
Hun Sen's show of strength at a mass rally
His party, the Cambodian People's Party, is being challenged by more than 30 opposition groups, including the one led by Prince Ranariddh.

The run up to polling has been accompanied by charges of voter intimidation, the latest by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

The London-based group said that opposition politicians and activists have been threatened, beaten and shot dead.

'Better than expected'

Simon Ingram reports that the campaign has gone relatively smoothly
But the BBC correspondent in Phnom Penh says that the campaign has proceeded more smoothly than many had dared hope.

Pressure from the international donors who are funding the election has ensured that in general, democratic norms - or something resembling them - have been respected.

[ image: Prince Norodam Ranariddh addresses supporters]
Prince Norodam Ranariddh addresses supporters
Although opposition groups have complained about intimidation and their lack of access to the broadcast media, threats of an election boycott have not materialised, and voter registration has been high.

Analysts believe that even massive vote-rigging would be unlikely to bring Hun Sen the two-thirds majority that he and his allies would need in order to govern alone, and that a coalition of some description is the most likely outcome.

March for peace

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.

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