Cambodian opposition denounces 'intimidation'

Cambodia's opposition on Saturday condemned political "intimidation" ahead of elections, after a gunman fired a shot at the party's headquarters.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, which took place in the early hours of Saturday when the offices of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Phnom Penh were closed for the night.

The party accused people in power of being behind the attack and denounced it as an attempt to scare the opposition ahead of July 28 general elections.

It came a day after tens of thousands of people greeted opposition leader Sam Rainsy on his return from self-imposed exile to help his party fight to end Prime Minister Hun Sen's nearly three decades in power.

"I condemn all intimidation," Rainsy told reporters Saturday on the campaign trail in southern Kampong Speu province.

The French-educated former banker fled in 2009 to avoid charges he contends were politically motivated but received a royal pardon earlier this month.

The party said in a statement that the incident was "to intimidate and to cause instability and chaos" ahead of the polls.

"I think this attack was orchestrated by people in power. This is a politically motivated case," CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann told AFP.

"This is a cowardly act.... We're not scared by this attack at all," he said.

National police spokesman Kirt Chantharith confirmed the attack by the unidentified gunman and said police had collected a bullet.

"We are investigating the case," he told AFP.

Hun Sen is one of Southeast Asia's longest-serving leaders. His Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won the last two polls by a landslide amid allegations of fraud and election irregularities.

His government is regularly accused of suppressing political freedoms and muzzling activists. In May Hun Sen said he would try to stay in power for another decade.

Rainsy, who is seen as the main challenger to Hun Sen, has been removed from the electoral register and as a result is unable to run as a candidate this month unless parliament amends the law.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Rainsy warned that demonstrations might break out if he is not allow to stand in the polls.

"If I can't participate, after the elections all the Cambodian people will protest and the whole international community will condemn the result and regard this as a sham election," Rainsy was quoted as saying.