Cambodia ruling party calls for new election: Tension mounts as opposition pulls ahead in voting and Khmer Rouge rebels say they are ready to start fighting again

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The Independent Online
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's ruling party moved yesterday to reject the result of last week's historic election, and Khmer Rouge guerrillas retaliated by threatening renewed war.

'We cannot accept the result if it (the election) is not free and fair,' said Sok An, chief spokesman of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), who demanded new elections in at least four provinces.

In Bangkok, a highly placed Khmer Rouge source said its guerrillas were ready to go back to war if the Vietnamese-installed government refused to honour the election result.

United Nations officials said the situation around the country was tense. The UN increased security at its radio station, which was broadcasting election results, after an anonymous telephone threat that an armoured car would attack it. A platoon of Ghanaian soldiers took up positions around the building.

'In any country primary targets are radio and TV stations,' said the UN spokesman, Eric Falt. 'There has been a lot of criticism of Radio Untac (UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia) and it is only natural that we would increase security there.'

The ruling CPP began complaining about voting irregularities after the vote count started to favour the main opposition party, the royalist Funcinpec, which was 5 per cent ahead yesterday morning.

Mr Falt said that with about 60 per cent of ballots counted, Funcinpec had 42.3 per cent of the vote and the government party 37.2 per cent. Final results are expected this week.

'The Vietnamese puppet-regime (CPP) is not going to transfer power to Funcinpec and is not prepared for defeat. So once the result of the election shows the CPP was defeated violence will break out,' the Khmer Rouge source said.

The UN, which superivsed the polling, reported a series of incidents around the country. On Monday night an attacker opened fire on Japanese policemen in the district of Prey Veng but there were no casualties. Yesterday, government soldiers robbed Cambodian civilian Untac employees in Siem Reap, in the north. And a Uruguayan peace-keeper was killed and three other UN soldiers wounded when suspected Khmer Rouge guerrillas ambushed their convoy in eastern Cambodia on Monday.

The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, had earlier indicated acceptance of a UN declaration that the six-day election had been free and fair. But on Monday the government demanded Untac should stop publishing the results. The demand was rejected by the UN. Late on Monday night the CPP president, Chea Sim, and other government officials met the peace-keeping chief, Yasushi Akashi, to air grievances about balloting procedures.

They demanded new elections in the capital, Phnom Penh, which was won easily by Funcinpec; Battambang in the west; Kompong Chhnang, just north of the capital, and Prey Veng in the south-east. Later, the CPP spokesman, Sok An, said the party was considering making the same demand for Kandal, which encircles Phnom Penh, and Kompong Cham, to the east, Cambodia's most populous province.

Asked about holding a new election in the provinces at issue, Mr Akashi told reporters: 'We are not thinking about it at the moment.'

(Photograph omitted)