Thirty-five former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) members and activists in Battambang province have now been called for questioning regarding the alleged violation of a Supreme Court ruling that saw their party dissolved.
Meanwhile, another 35 people in Kampong Thom province have claimed they were questioned by local police.
A further nine former CNRP members in Battambang province have been summoned by the provincial court for questioning for allegedly violating the Supreme Court ruling that dissolved the opposition party in November 2017, former CNRP member Suon Chamroeun said.
The nine were summoned on May 8 in addition to the 26 called before the court in late April.
Chamroeun, a former member in Battambang province, said on Sunday that the latest nine had been summoned by provincial court prosecutor Chheun Sophon to appear at court on Friday morning for “disrespecting the Supreme Court’s ruling”.
He said this was the third case issued by the provincial court, with two others currently in the process of questioning by prosecutor Keu Bunnara.
“On May 24, all nine people will appear at the court in the morning. Each of them will answer the court’s questions for 15 minutes. For two hours all nine people will be questioned together,” said Chamroeun, adding that he was still unaware of the reasons for the summonses, calling them “ridiculous”.
Sam Sokong, a lawyer representing the 35, said all of them bear the same accusation. But the latest case was linked to an event that the former CNRP activists made in Moung Russey district before last July’s national elections.
“The activities were not a crime. They were just expressing the sentiment of whether to vote or not, which is a right, as well as using their freedom of expression as protected by law,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former CNRP official in Kampong Thom province said 35 former CNRP activists in Kampong Thom had been questioned by local police since Khmer New Year over a gathering held in January.
Sun Thun, a former CNRP Kampong Thom provincial councillor, on Sunday said the small party was organised to show that they missed CNRP presidents Kem Sokha and his fellow party co-founder Sam Rainsy, to express support for Rainsy becoming acting president and to welcome his announcing his return.
“We expressed our respect for both leaders. We showed our support for [Rainsy’s] return and for him being elected acting president [of the CNRP]. We showed that we missed both of them . . . we prayed that both leaders must not be split apart, no matter how much persecution is carried out against them,” Thun said.
He said commune police in Baray, Santuk and Stung Sen districts had called the activists in for questioning one after another “like during the Khmer Rouge regime”.
He said the police told the CNRP members that as the party had been dissolved, there was no reason to hold a gathering in support of it. He said he was not aware if the court had issued summonses.
Yeng Sareth, the Kampong Thom provincial deputy police chief in charge of security, said on Sunday that he was not aware of the matter.
Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou said on Sunday that he also was unaware of the case, but he said it was normal for the police to question anyone who broke the law.
“This is not unusual because when someone does something prohibited by law, it is normal that they are called in for questioning. The police have the duty to protect public safety and maintain social order,” he said.
Sam Sokong said he had not been asked to provide assistance in the Kampong Thom province case.