`Free and Fair' Elections in Cambodia

In the Opinion page article "Cambodian Peacekeeping," April 22, the author, while discussing the role of the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), states that "In mid-1993 UNTAC will organize `free and fair' elections in a country with no history of democratic elections...." Actually, after successfully gaining independence from France in 1953-54, "free and fair" elections were held in Cambodia.

On March 2, 1955, Prince Norodom Sihanouk announced his abdication from the throne of Cambodia in favor of his father, Norodom Suramarit, in order to provide himself with a free hand to engage in Cambodian politics. During that same year, Sihanouk established his own political party named Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People's Socialist Community), which was routinely referred to as the Sangkum, and entered the political arena.

In September 1955, elections were held and Sihanouk's party handily defeated the Khmer Independence Party, the Democrats, and the leftist Pracheachon party (People's Party). The Sangkum received 82 percent of the vote and all the seats in the National Assembly. Through the combined use of diplomatic concessions and internal purges, political opposition to Sihanouk's Sangkum had virtually disappeared by the early 1960s, but this does not change the fact that there were "free and fair" elections in 1955. James Gildea, Albany, NY

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