An opposition activist in Ratanakkiri was questioned by police ahead of a Cambodia National Rescue Party event yesterday, a move decried as “discriminatory” and “intimidation” by the party and analysts.
CNRP activist Khuth Var said police came to question him at his home on Wednesday night. Although the issue was resolved by Thursday morning, when the public forum with CNRP Deputy President-elect Mu Sochua went ahead, Var said the local ruling party officials were not subjected to the same treatment.
“[On Wednesday] the commune police chief came to tell us to remove our tent and to stop holding the forum because we did not have permission, and he told us that he just followed the orders of the commune chief and district governor,” Var said. “It is such discrimination against us because we are CNRP.”
But Kon Mom District Governor Chhoeun Chan Theang said Var had not provided a letter informing the district of the political activity three days prior, instead giving only one day’s notice.
“We do not allow them because they do not follow our rules,” Chan Theang said.
“[If there were] an incident taking place, the authority would not be responsible for its security. If someone who hates them threw something into [the tent], there would be chaos. They would die . . . We just wanted them to do it the proper way.”
Phak Pov, Trapaing Kraham commune police chief, stressed that “it was not a big deal”, and that there were also questions about the legitimacy of the event, as the official commune election campaign period does not begin until May 20.
He said the issue was resolved after some negotiation, and said the treatment was different for the CPP because they already held the commune chief position. “Because they are the local authority, when they are holding a forum they just inform police, who go there and provide security for them,” Pov said.
Opposition lawmaker Sochua said there had been no problems at the forum yesterday, which was attended by an estimated 250 people.
“[There was] intimidation the night before, of course, but we’re so used to it . . . Every time we are challenged it is an opportunity,” she said.
“I stressed very strongly the rights of the indigenous people . . . There have been really massive land concessions . . . [and] people were so desperate, they felt cheated. For the indigenous people, their lives are with the forest.”
Political analyst Meas Ny said there was “no doubt” there was a double standard for the CPP and the CNRP, but also urged both parties not to sneak in campaigning before the official period.
“I don’t believe it is an order from the top but more an initiative of the local level . . . They think they can make [the upper level] happy that they have done something to disturb the CNRP,” he said.