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Authorities halt R’kiri thumbprint collection

Authorities halt R’kiri thumbprint collection

Opposition supporters in Ratanakkiri yesterday said that local authorities aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have actively obstructed their efforts to circulate petitions ahead of Wednesday’s planned rally in Freedom Park.

After collecting more than 100 thumbprints, local government and police officials in Bakeo district invited Kvas Sang, a member of the district’s Keh Chung commune council, to a sit-down at the commune hall, he told the Post yesterday.

They asked why he was collecting thumbprints and for the names of those who had signed the petition, he said.

“I replied that it was nothing; we support [the Cambodia National Rescue Party], so they thumbprinted documents to support the CNRP,” Sang said.

Heng Bun Thang, Bakeo district governor, yesterday confirmed Sang’s account, saying that higher-level officials had ordered their provincial counterparts to halt the collection of thumbprints.

“We do not allow them to do this, because it is a way of provoking villagers. It affects security,” Bun Thang said before hanging up the phone.

Facing similar questioning from local authorities, Rocham Choung, second deputy commune chief in Kak commune, said police officers stopped by his home to tell him to cease his petitioning, which had yielded more than 200 thumbprints, he said.

Police staked out his home to see if he left to collect more thumbprints, he added.

“I think that the authorities from the Cambodian People’s Party do not want us to support the CNRP and believe it is right to abuse villagers and the supporters of CNRP,” Choung said.

Kak commune chief Leuy Touch could not be reached for comment yesterday.

CPP efforts to thwart such opposition activities was no surprise, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said yesterday, adding that such actions reveal the level of sincerity behind recent talk of reforms.

“This is an in-your-face reality, [that] those reforms are either going to take time, or the CPP isn’t really going to let those reforms happen,” Virak said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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