The Cambodia National Rescue Party compiled supporter thumbprints from across the country at their headquarters yesterday, as they prepared a second petition asking for King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene in the escalating political crisis.
CNRP provincial officials filed into party headquarters, bringing with them thumbprints from each province, with party spokesman Yim Sovann saying they had amassed close to 240,000 thumbprints, higher than the more than 170,000 collected for the first petition.
The CNRP submitted the first petition on May 30 to King Sihamoni, asking that he intervene in a host of “politically motivated” legal cases targeting their members – including acting CNRP president Kem Sokha – NGO workers and an election official. That petition is now under investigation by the Interior Ministry after allegations of forged thumbprints emerged in local media.
The party, Sovann said, has yet to decide on when to submit the new petition.
The recent petition drive has been punctuated with instances of CNRP supporters being briefly detained by authorities and made to thumbprint documents promising to cease their activities. Koh Kong Governor Bun Leut went so far as to say the petition drive would cause “social chaos”.
But holding up the 22,500 thumbprints from Kampong Cham, Nhay Chamroeun, a CNRP lawmaker from the same province, yesterday said the people had a right to attach their thumbprints to the petition and there was no law preventing them from doing so. “The expression of this right through giving their thumbprint is the gentlest way,” he said.
Today, the party plans to hold a mass gathering and expects supporters from across the country, especially from Phnom Penh and Kandal, to congregate outside its headquarters.
However, “fake” fliers conflating the gathering with a push to “topple” the government were plastered on CNRP billboards in eight communes in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Chrum district, said opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrith, who distanced the party from the fliers.
Titled “Announcing the rally on June 14 to topple dictator Hun Sen!”, the flier reads: “All brothers, sisters and compatriots, especially the youth, in [Cambodia] and overseas participate in large numbers to oppose the ruling regime.”
Chanrith insisted yesterday the fliers did not come from the CNRP, and suggested they were the work of agent provocateurs.
“This is to make turmoil, and by faking party documents they are trying to place the blame on CNRP leaders,” he added. Pin An, Svay Chrum’s district police chief, declined to comment on the fliers.
Today’s mass gathering will coincide with a scheduled court appearance for acting party president Sokha, who was called for questioning for ignoring three prior summonses related to an alleged sex scandal.
The CNRP, however, released another statement yesterday reaffirming its decision to not allow Sokha to attend the hearing. The statement added that lawyers for Sokha would present documents providing reasons as to why he is not obligated to appear.
“If court wants His Excellency Kem Sokha to go [to court] for clarifying, the National Assembly must suspend his immunity first,” lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang told supporters yesterday.
Police attempted to arrest Sokha on May 26 for skipping a court date, and he has since been holed up at party headquarters.