A cyclist rides past an electoral hoarding of Cambodia's Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) Hun Sen, in Phnom Penh on July 26, 2018.

Cambodia's election condemned as a 'sham'

Updated 0556 GMT (1356 HKT) July 29, 2018

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN)Voting is under way in Cambodia's general election. Officially, there are 20 different political parties on Sunday's ballot. But for many voters in this small Southeast Asian nation, there is no real choice.

The election, the country's sixth since democracy was restored in 1993, has been condemned as a "sham" by rights groups, following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on the press by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
In areas away from the capital, voters spoke of a variety of intimidation tactics deployed by the CPP.
"Some people are afraid of talking politics," said one man, who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Bo. According to Bo, the CPP, which under Prime Minister Hun Sen has governed the country for 33 years, punishes those who vote for the opposition.
In rural Cambodia, the village chief and commune counselors issue documents for everything from marriages to land purchases, making people like Bo reliant on them for simple everyday transactions.
Inside the Cambodian People's Party office in Traing district, Takeo province. The single staffer on duty did not want to be photographed.
If they know someone supports the opposition "you have to go (back) three or four times before they agree (to issue the documents)," Bo told CNN from his village home in Traing District, Takeo Province.
    "They put pressure on your family and if you are a powerful man they can kill you too, like Kem Ley."
    In 2016, Kem Ley, a political analyst and government critic, was shot dead in broad daylight at a cafe in the capital city, Phnom Penh. A man jailed for the killing in 2017 said he shot Ley over a debt, but for many, including Human Rights Watch, the killing was politically motivated.
    Since Ley's killing, the government has arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha for treason and pro-government courts dissolved his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) soon after.
    The authorities also launched a series of ongoing attacks on the press, arresting several journalists and closing the Cambodia Daily newspaper over a tax dispute.
    In May, staff at the English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post resigned en mass following the sale of the paper to a Malaysian tycoon who demanded changes to an article detailing his links with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
    Since 2017, Cambodia has dropped 10 places in the World Press Freedom Index.