Prime Minister Hun Sen has renewed his warning that any party that receives orders from overseas-based politicians would be dissolved. He also revealed a draft amendment to the election law, highlighting penalties for those who attempt to prevent other from voting or incite the public not to take part in democratic process.
This was the third time this week that the premier stressed the need to amend the election law. It followed a social media campaign by self-exiled opposition figures who called for voters to boycott the July 23 general election, or deface their ballots.
“A group that is based abroad is pushing for a party that receives orders from outside Cambodia to be abolished. I want them to note my words carefully. If those who are inside the country dare to carry out actions ordered from outside, they will face severe punishment,” he said while meeting with nearly 20,000 factory workers in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district on June 14.
Although he did not name a specific party, Hun Sen apparently referred to the Candlelight Party (CP), as last week he urged an investigation into possible links between the CP and the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by former opposition leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy.
CP vice-president Rong Chhun claimed that his party has no relationship with political figures outside the country.
He downplayed concerns about possible disbandment of the CP, saying the party had been disqualified from the election, which he said was tantamount to dissolution.
“I don’t think this will lead to the dissolution of the party. We have no relation with the CNRP, so I don’t think our party will be dissolved,” he added.
Hun Sen hinted that articles 142 and 143 of the election law, which detail penalties and the removal of the candidacy of those who violate them, will be amended.
“We will amend the election laws relating to the rights to stand for all elected posts, in order to strengthen the responsibility of all politicians. If you don’t go to vote, it means you are not a responsible person,” he said.
He said the proposed Article 142 includes a fine of between five and 20 million riel ($1,250 and $5,000), excluding other criminal penalties, for those who use any means to block or incite eligible voters into not fulfilling their democratic rights, including registering to vote and casting a ballot.
The proposed article also states that those who cause disruptions to the registration or publication of voter lists, or use violence or intimidation on other parties or their candidates, will be removed from the voter list and deprived of their right to engage in political activities for a period of five years. This penalty is in addition to other potential criminal responsibilities.
“Please be ruder than this if you want to. The ruder you are, the more you will be suppressed, like a fish caught in a trap,” warned the prime minister.
“If you continue to call on people to deface their ballot papers, wait and see how many people will be jailed and fined,” he added.
The CP’s Chhun said that whether people vote or not, it is their right to make the decision for themselves.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin explained that the proposed amendments to the election law would encourage political leaders at the national and sub-national levels to behave responsibly.
He said that anyone wishing to stand for any elected position should be a person of high integrity, and that the election process is at the centre of the principles of democracy.
“Therefore, those who fail to vote without an acceptable reason will lose their chance to stand as candidates. Of course, they will still be permitted to vote, just like any ordinary citizen,” he added.
According to Malin, the amendments will be to the election-related laws that are covered by Article 34 of the Constitution. The article details the conditions whereby a person may be deprived of the right to vote or stand for election.