Five former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) members in Battambang province, including the former chief of its executive committee, Chea Chiv, were found guilty of breaking election campaign rules and each fined 10 million riel ($2,500) on Thursday for raising clean index fingers to the camera as they posed for photographs.
The act was deemed as being part of the “Clean Fingers” campaign calling on people to boycott Sunday’s national elections, according to Chea Chiv, one of those fined.
Chea Chiv is among the 118 CNRP lawmakers banned from political activity after the opposition party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November. The four others fined were former CNRP commune officials from two districts in Battambang province.
“The Provincial Election Committee [PEC] decided that all five of us are guilty and we have been fined 10 million riel each, not including any other criminal punishment. It is a decision we find unjust because we are just ordinary citizens. We just used our will and our freedom of expression,” Chiv said after the PEC decision on Thursday.
He said that on July 19, he threw a party and invited former colleagues to his house.
After the party he and around 30 friends took photographs in which they raised their index fingers.
“I posted the pictures on Facebook with a short description saying we have ‘clean fingers’. That’s all, nothing else,” he said on Thursday. He said he raised his fingers to show that he wouldn’t vote without his party, as was his right under freedom of expression.
NEC Choungy complaint
The Clean Fingers campaign was launched after former CNRP president Sam Rainsy appealed to the public to refrain from voting in the upcoming polls to protest the dissolution of the opposition party by the Supreme Court last year.
Som Sorida, deputy secretary-general of NEC confirmed the fines on Thursday. He said Chiv and his group had three days in which to file an appeal with the NEC.
If the NEC were to uphold the PEC decision then they would only have the Constitutional Council left as a final appeal option, he said.
Sorida said that because Chiv is banned from political activity then he may be brought before the courts over the photographs.
In a separate case, the NEC has complained to four ministries and the Bar Association regarding lawyer Choung Choungy, who in a Facebook video explained voters’ rights regarding boycotting the election.
The CPP claimed that such an explanation carried the intention to provoke people into abstaining from voting on Sunday.
“The NEC has sent letters to four ministries and an institution. We sent them to the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to block [Choungy’s Facebook account] to prevent him spreading information that makes voters confused and lose trust in the NEC,” Sorida said.
Sorida said a letter was also sent to the Ministry of Justice to request legal action if what Choungy did was considered an act “to support the appeal of Sam Rainsy, the president of the Cambodia Rescue Movement”.
Another letter was sent to Bar Association of Cambodia for review, he said.
Choungy could not be reached for comment yesterday.