National Election Committee member Rong Chhun will become the second non-CPP-aligned NEC official to face court action in recent weeks.
According to a letter signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge San Sophat on April 26, Chhun, a former union leader, will face trial for his alleged role in the Veng Sreng Boulevard wage protests in January 2014, during which security forces shot five people dead.
The former president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association was provisionally charged over the matter in November 2014, alongside at least four other people, including union leaders Ath Thorn, Pav Sina, Chea Mony and Yang Sophorn; however, the case has not progressed until now.
The group was placed under court supervision on charges of intentional violence, property damage, threats to cause damage and obstructing traffic.
The case’s revival comes amid a slew of recent arrests and charges over an alleged affair by CNRP leader Kem Sokha. Among those detained awaiting trial is Ny Chakrya, NEC deputy secretary and a former senior official at rights-group Adhoc.
Critics have accused the ruling CPP of trying to sideline its political opponents and critics ahead of coming elections.
Via email from France, CNRP president Sam Rainsy said it appeared the CPP was determined to break the new NEC to avoid “credible elections”.
“They shamelessly want to cling to power at any cost. All concerned institutions and persons with a sense of decency must immediately react,” Rainsy said.
Under a 2014 deal to resolve the disputed 2013 elections, the NEC was overhauled and made bipartisan. Chhun was among four members appointed by the CNRP alongside four from the CPP and “neutral” member Hang Puthea, a former election monitor who yesterday declined to comment.
Reached yesterday, Chhun rejected any wrongdoing during the protests and said the timing of his case was suspicious.
“The forwarding of this case is consistent with the current hot situation,” Chhun said. “This case has been ongoing since 2014.”
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union; Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers; and Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union, had not yet received letters about the case. Cambodian Alliance Trade Unions president Yang Sophorn could not be reached.
The head of election monitoring group Comfrel, Koul Panha, said the latest development was cause for serious concern.
He noted that Article 13 of the law that established the new NEC expressly states that its members should be free from fear and intimidation.
“This is severely concerning,” Panha said.
“Both parties sat in the National Assembly and agreed to work towards a better election … If they don’t implement that agreement it will affect the confidence of the people.”
But CPP spokesman Sous Yara rejected the suggestion the case was politically motivated.
“Where’s the evidence?” he asked.