The opposition Sam Rainsy Party was violating the human rights of Cambodia’s citizens and acting like the murderous Pol Pot regime, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.
Hun Sen, leader of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, told more than 3,000 students at a graduation ceremony he presided over that the SRP was forcing all its members to swear they would vote for the SRP and to hand over their mobile phones the night before commune elections in June next year.
“These issues are a serious violation of universal human rights, and it looks like detaining people in the same way they did during the Pol Pot regime,” the premier said.
The SRP suspected that some of its members in commune councils across the Kingdom and members of the National Assembly would not vote in favour of the lead opposition party, Hun Sen said.
“I want to send a message to human-rights NGOs to pay attention to this issue,” the long-serving leader, who rarely requests the engagement of human-rights organisations in Cambodia’s affairs, said.
His condemnation of the SRP and request for human-rights organisations to investigate comes one day after an alliance of 149 associations, unions and NGOs issued a joint statement criticising the SRP’s mobile-phone confiscation order.
The alliance, the Cambodian People Network for Peace, issued a joint statement citing the orders of SRP leader Sam Rainsy to all party members to swear they must vote for his party and that they must all hand in their phones on January 28 as a way to express loyalty.
“The CPNP believes the use of forceful threats and warnings by SRP toward SRP commune council members does not respect democracy or human rights,” the statement reads.
“The actions of [Sam Rainsy] are in full contradiction with the democratic principle that the power belongs to the people, by the people and for the people.”
The threat by Sam Rainsy to confiscate mobile phones was an “act of treason” that compromised the will of the people, who were the “owners of their votes”, the alliance said.
Sam Rainsy is now in exile in France to escape what he views as an unjust and politically motivated prison sentence for encouraging villagers to uproot border posts on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that the call to the party’s members to swear loyalty in the commune council elections was strictly voluntary.
“We are all willing to swear and there is no intimidation,” Yim Sovann said. “We do so to express loyalty to the president of the SRP.”
In regards to the call for handing over mobile phones the day before the election, Yim Sovann said the motivation for this extreme act was to try to reduce the impact of threats and intimidation by the CPP.
“We are experienced in recording the conversations from CPP members threatening, intimidating and offering to buy votes from SRP members on election day,” he said. “We have filed a complaint to the [National Election Commission], but it has never been fairly ruled on.
“In this circumstance, the NEC has become a tool of the CPP, and so we must find a way ourselves to stop the intimidation, threats and vote buying,” the spokesman said.
NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said that intimidation, threats and vote buying as well as any other activities jeopardizing voters are against the law.
“Individual voters must cast their vote by their own volition,” he said. “If the NEC found there was such vote buying and intimidation by a political party’s candidate, that candidate would be removed and fined between 2 and 50 million riel.”