Elephants may be used to stamp out protests

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's tough-talking chief-of-police is so keen to keep the lid on any possible violence after this weekend's general elections he is even thinking about drafting in riot elephants, he said yesterday. 

“We are ready to crack down if there are any violent demonstrations after the election results have been announced and accepted by national and international observers,” police chief Hok Lundy told a meeting of around 200 security officials. 

“Our policemen have 30 dogs at hand and the military police have even asked me to buy elephants to stamp on protesters,” he added. 

A dispute over the results of the impoverished and politically riven South-East Asian nation's elections in 1998 led to mass demonstrations on the streets of the capital.  

Several people were killed in clashes with police. 

After comments by Hok Lundy in February that police would “swat” any unruly demonstrators, authorities have taken a tough line on large gatherings, prompting calls from opposition and human right groups they are stifling free speech during the campaign. 

Despite widespread reports of voter intimidation in the run-up to this year's polls, the overall political atmosphere this year is calmer, said election observers. 

Kep Chuktema, governor of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, had a less severe message for the policemen crammed into the city hall, telling them to keep their strength up with a healthy diet. 

“Please, all you security people, keep drinking fresh milk to improve your health and so be ready for work,” he told the gathering. 

The Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a one-eyed former Khmer Rouge soldier said to be as tough as his police chief, is widely expected to win the July 27 elections. – Reuters 

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