People to be coded ‘black,’ ‘gray’ or ‘white’ according to level of support for party
The ruling CPP has embarked on a nationwide project in which local party officials have been assigned to identify and record the political preferences and affiliations of residents in all communes and to categorize them according to their level of support for the CPP, according to an internal party document.
CPP officials confirmed yesterday that the project was launched in preparation for the 2012 national elections, claiming that the information amassed on the political leanings of the population would be for internal party use only.
The opposition SRP expressed concern yesterday that the political screening process would be used to target and discriminate against its members.
A September 2009 CPP document titled “Decision of the appointment of district officials to strengthen the villages and communities within the 15 communes of Dangkao district” details how the monitoring project would work.
In the document, Krouch Phan, the CPP chief for Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district, instructs local party officials to establish commune level working groups to gather information and keep updated records on local residents’ political preferences and their degree of affiliation to political parties.
The document also directs those doing the monitoring to rank individuals as either black, gray or white in terms of their loyalty to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP.
Those categorized as “white” in the political census are considered strong ruling party supporters, according to the document, which also states that the objective of the color coding is to “transform” the “black” to “white.”
“Investigate, evaluate and do the survey of the CPP members, families of other political parties and other political party activists and people in the village to identify [them] as white, gray or black,” the document states.
“The working group in the commune must summarize the evaluation and monthly results…[and] give a report to the [CPP] district committee,” the document continues. “Identify the motives of the white, gray or black in order to turn these [colors] into a movement and transform the black and gray to become white,” the document states.
The district chief also instructs commune level officials to prioritize the request for assistance from CPP loyalists.
“Find out and control villagers’ requests, especially members of the Cambodian People’s Party who are facing difficulties in order to help them on time. Find all means and solutions in building local achievements,” the document instructs.
Contacted yesterday, Mr Phan, a former governor of Dangkao district, explained that residents labeled “gray” were considered hesitant in their support for the CPP and those labeled “black” lacked support for the party or had left the party. He added that CPP officials in all eight districts of the capital had been instructed to set up similar working groups.
Mr Phan said the information would not be used against members of other parties and was only collected to help set out the CPP’s internal party strategy.
“This is the CPP internal affairs, we don’t interfere with other political parties,” he said.
Minister of Information and CPP government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the CPP’s central leadership had instructed party officials in communes across the country to gather the information on the population in order to assess the strength of the party.
“We don’t blacklist people,” the minister said. “We want to find weak areas [in the party] and make them strong. This is a party’s management,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong, Phnom Penh deputy governor and CPP Deputy President for the capital, said those rated as “black” in their political affiliations should not be concerned.
“When we highlight people as black we don’t regard them as enemies,” he said. “The CPP and the opposition parties are not enemies.”
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the ruling party’s mobilization to monitor the political allegiance of the population was unprecedented.
“It’s something new this time,” Mr Panha said. “It’s a big project to train all these people” to gather information in all communes.
Mr Panha said CPP officials, who dominated the civil service at the commune, district and provincial levels, must not carry out their party’s political monitoring work during government office hours.
“Before, we found out that they always engage in CPP work during working hours. This violates the civil servant law,” he said.
Mr Panha also expressed concern that the ruling party’s monitoring would pressure people into joining CPP political activities even though they may not support the party or want to take part in such events.
“They should not pressure people to engage in politics. It should be more voluntary.”
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)
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