The opposition CNRP claims their attempts to gather thumbprints to petition the King to release Cambodia’s 29 political prisoners has faced political backlash from police.
The thumbprint collection comes a week after Ministry of Justice spokesperson Kim Santepheap slammed rights group Licadho for its webpage that counts the days human rights workers, opposition supporters and environmental activists have spent in jail.
Doung Phon, a CNRP member collecting thumbprints in Kampot’s Chhouk district, said the police called him in for questioning yesterday.
“They asked me why I collect thumbprints and asked if I forced people to give their thumbprint, but I replied I never forced them,” Phon said. “They asked us to stop this action, so I will stop for a while.”
Phon said the police interrogation was a sign of political intimidation, but a spokesperson for Phnom Penh City Hall, Chin Bunthoeun, said although the CNRP was entitled to collect thumbprints, it was also necessary to monitor their reasons.
“It’s their right, but if suspects who are in jail are released because of a group of people collecting thumbprints, this means they are damaging the rule of law. It amounts to a lawless country,” Bunthoeun said.
CNRP spokesperson Yim Sovann said the petition would be delivered to King Norodom Sihamoni at the end of June.
Meanwhile, one of the prisoners – Sam Rainsy Party member Seang Chet, a commune chief in Kampong Cham – will apply for bail on Thursday.
His lawyer, Sam Sokong, said Chet should be released to fulfill his duties while his legal case progresses.