In support of its “acting president” Sam Rainsy, the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Monday launched the “nine fingers” campaign, even as the government warned of strict legal action against those who took part in it.
“From today until November 9, at every meeting and for every greeting we must raise nine fingers to show support for November 9,” former CNRP senior official Ho Vann posted on Facebook on Monday.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said the campaign would fail like the “Clean Fingers” campaign encouraging voters to boycott last year’s national elections.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said: “By law, any form of activity, whether expressions, gestures or actions, supporting [Sam Rainsy’s] plan to return is considered as backing a plot to stage a coup.
“Any form of activity supporting a plot to topple the legitimate government is a crime, which the law refers to as ‘plotting’.
“The authorities will take strict measures against any individual who intends to cause unrest in society. People will support the legal action because we value the peace that we currently enjoy.”
On Sunday, Malin said that “plotting” referred to supplying any form of assistance such as publicly expressing support for Rainsy or gathering to support his return in a bid to topple the government.
The Ministry of Justice said: “Any individual participating in a plot to topple the government will be charged with ‘plotting’ as stipulated in Article 453 of the Criminal Code. This carries a punishment of between five and 10 years in prison.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the nine fingers campaign was the latest scheme from a group willing to use “every kind of trick”.
“This is just an attempt to stage a coup. They use every kind of trick to make people participate in their movement. We would like to appeal to all citizens that any activity which demonstrates participation in staging a coup will result in legal action.
“I appeal to all citizens to remain composed. If they participate in a coup, they must be punished in accordance with the law,” Siphan said.
The nine fingers campaign comes after Rainsy, who fled abroad to avoid a slew of court cases and convictions, appealed on Facebook to members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the public to support his return to the Kingdom on November 9.
Rainsy called his return a movement to save Cambodian democracy and said the CNRP had prepared a budget for soldiers who defected from Prime Minister Hun Sen on his return.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan also said the nine fingers campaign was doomed to failure.
“We saw the ‘Clean Fingers’ campaign of last year fail, and the nine fingers campaign will also fail. And the life and politics of this convict [Rainsy] will end up in Prey Sar prison,” Eysan told The Post on Tuesday.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, similarly said any activity in support of Rainsy was support for a coup attempt as the CNRP co-founder had appealed to the people and the armed forces to stand up against the government.
“Being involved in any action by that movement’s campaign equals to conspiring in a plot with Sam Rainsy. Raising fingers or being involved with activities planned by Sam Rainsy is equivalent to plotting. This will result in punishment under the law,” Phea said.
Contacted by The Post on Tuesday, Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, declined to make any comment.
However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the measures outlined by the authorities were of concern.
He said carrying out such action against any individual for either expressing opinions or carrying out activities in support of Rainsy violated human rights and freedom of expression as stipulated in the Constitution.
“This is not unusual. The same thing happened with the Black Monday protests and the Clean Fingers campaign. The government should not react strongly as this would affect the rights and freedoms of citizens.
“Some citizens do not fully understand the issues but they love and support Sam Rainsy. It would be wrong if they are punished for following him, and it would make the situation deteriorate even further,” Chanrath said.