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Rainsy campaign ban considered

Rainsy campaign ban considered

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Cambodia's exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy poses for the camera outside Australia's Parliament house in Canberra. Photograph: AFP PHOTO

The National Election Committee is considering a new rule that would effectively ban self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy from campaigning for his party from abroad.

The move, coming ahead of parliamentary elections in July next year, could further isolate Rainsy, who lives in France and reaches most of his supporters via the internet or rousing video broadcasts.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha told the Post yesterday that Rainsy is already barred from registering to vote or standing for office because he was convicted of a crime.

In 2010, courts sentenced him in absentia to a total of 12 years for uprooting a post on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam and producing Google maps he used to allege territorial encroachment.

And since he cannot cast a ballot or run for a seat, “do we allow him to propagandise or not?” asked Nytha, who did not say when a decision would be made on the potential ban.

“The experts in our department have been studying this issue, because it is related to the law.”

It is unclear how Rainsy would reach supporters if the ban goes into effect, a task he has already been having trouble with.

During the commune elections last month, he spoke to party members via a video speech broadcast from abroad.

The NEC later fined him US$2,500 for, among other things, using the platform to call Prime Minister Hun Sen a “traitor”.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann called the proposal “unacceptable”.

“They should not concentrate on banning Mr Sam Rainsy. Mr Sam Rainsy is not a criminal; he’s a patriot. I appeal to the NEC to suspend this idea.”

Koul Panha, the head of the election monitoring group Comfrel, said the NEC does not have the right to issue such a far-reaching ban.

There were more pressing laws the NEC should look at strengthening, such as the loosely enforced rule prohibiting civil servants and armed forces from campaigning for political parties.

To contact the reporters on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]
Joseph Freeman at [email protected]

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