The National Election Committee (NEC) has fined three former opposition party activists in Battambang province for their role in the “clean finger” opposition boycott campaign during the July 29 national elections.
Chea Chiv was ordered to pay 10 million riel ($2,500), while Kruy Kim Saing and Thorng Saroeun were ordered to pay five million riel each. Members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the head of a civil society group slammed the decision as unjust.
Initially, the case concerned five suspects. But after an appeal, the NEC dropped the charges against two of the suspects Mang Chhun and Pov Taing. Kim Saing and Saroeun’s fine was also reduced from 10 to five million riel.
The “clean finger” campaign was led by opposition leaders and called for a boycott of this year’s elections in protest at the alleged lack of meaningful opposition due to the CNRP’s dissolution.
An NEC letter obtained by The Post on Tuesday said: “The NEC has ordered Chea Chiv . . . to volunteer to pay [the NEC] a fine of 10 million riel . . . within 30 days of the date of receiving this letter.
“If the [recipient of the letter] does not come to pay the fine as ordered, the NEC will order [a further] fine in accordance of Article 166 of the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly.”
NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea rejected that the move was politically motivated and intended to exert pressure on the opposition.
“This is not politically motivated, but we are exercising the law. If they pay the fine in accordance with the order, nothing will happen. However, if they don’t pay on time or follow the order, the NEC will take legal action,” he said.
Chiv – the CNRP’s former Battambang province leader – said he and the two other members received the NEC’s order on Friday.
He said the trio intended to follow the order and pay the fine but said he “will be forced to borrow money to pay”, and invited supporters to donate to the cause.
The NEC’s decision, Chiv asserted, was politically motivated and unjust, and not based on laws or evidence.
He claimed the NEC’s decision was based on one photograph seemingly indicating that he boycotted the election as there were no political parties that he favoured.“It is difficult in our society for people who offer comments as constructive criticism or support the opposition party,” he said.
The fine was approved after the Constitutional Council upheld the NEC’s verdict.
Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia CEO Sam Sokuntheamy told The Post on Tuesday that if the NEC looked at evidence and reason they would see the men’s actions did not impact election procedures.
He said that the NEC should not have demanded they pay a large fine, but instead should educate them or issue a warning in writing as the men do not have the means to pay.
“As far as I know, the men don’t have money. I heard they are using their homes to borrow money from the bank, while some of them are borrowing money from other people,” he said.