Opposition officials in Poipet have requested the provincial government intervene after a village chief on Monday confiscated a book of Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters’ thumbprints.
Mean Sarith, chief of the CNRP working group in the border town, said Seng Long, the Cambodian People’s Party village chief in Kilometre 4, Phsar Kandal commune, had incited villagers on Monday to use violence against opposition members, which he described as “a violation of people’s freedom of expression”.
“The village chief said we were collecting the thumbprints illegally. I asked him why we were in the wrong. We just asked for their thumbprints voluntarily, to give to international organisations regarding the irregular election. But he did not give it back, and he said he had already sent it to [senior officials],” Sarith said.
“We will ask for our document to continue collecting the thumbprints. If it is not given back, we will ask for the people’s thumbprints again,” he added.
The authorities have been accused by the CNRP of a concerted campaign to obstruct the collection of signatures for a petition calling on foreign governments to reject the results of July’s national elections.
Long admitted to taking the book, but claimed he did so because the CNRP officials were breaking the law and tricking people into signing by saying they would receive compensation for flood damage.
“[The CNRP] did not inform me, making people here confused.… They have lied to people [by saying] that they are collecting thumbprints for flood donations,” he said, adding that 46 people would file complaints to the authorities requesting their signatures be removed from the book. He refused to divulge any of the names of the people he claimed were duped.
Amid numerous reported cases of intimidation of CNRP officials in Phnom Penh last week, municipal authorities told the party not to collect prints in public places because it was “disturbing public order”.
Since it held a large rally in Freedom Park on October 6, the CNRP claims it has collected 1 million thumbprints and hopes to reach 3 million before October 23, when it plans to hold a mass rally in the capital.