Authorities in several provinces kept up their apparent efforts to prevent opposition activists from gathering thumbprints for a petition, which one official claimed was causing “social chaos”.
The Koh Kong provincial governor penned a letter – dated last Tuesday and obtained yesterday – ordering authorities to prevent thumbprint collection by the Cambodia National Rescue Party, who plan to petition the King to release political prisoners and drop a legal case against opposition acting president Kem Sokha.
Governor Bun Leut wrote that the campaign to free the human rights workers, electoral official and CNRP activists was “provocative”, “deceptive” and would cause “social chaos”. Leut’s letter claimed NGO workers had also been collecting thumbprints, but In Kong Chit, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, denied the allegation.
Kong Chit said police stopped six activists from petitioning in several districts of Koh Kong and forced them to thumbprint a contract saying they would cease their activities, while Thork Sarom, CNRP chief in Kiri Sakor district, said three district police questioned him for five hours.
Khim Sane, Koh Kong provincial deputy police chief, said he had no knowledge of this. Meanwhile, in Ratanakkiri province, four CNRP activists in Lumphat district were called to the police station after collecting thumbprints on Saturday, according to Adhoc representative Chhay Thy.
A further nine activists in Stung Treng province were called in by police, according to provincial CNRP chief Puy Chanthala, who said 60 villagers in Sesan district were called to meet with authorities after they gave their thumbprints.
However, police officials in both areas said they had no knowledge of their forces interrogating petitioners.
Meanwhile, social media celebrity Thy Sovantha has piled on with her own allegations of petition drive impropriety. The former opposition darling is currently pressing defamation charges against Sokha after she was named in purported recordings of phone conversations between Sokha and his alleged mistress, Khom Chandaraty.
Sovantha took to Facebook on Saturday, claiming that some 1,000 people attended a forum she hosted in Kampong Cham, and that many in attendance “alleged local officials from the CNRP party had cheated them to thumbprint [the petition] in relation to Kem Sokha”.
She wrote she would send evidence of their claims to the Ministry of Interior, but refused to comment further yesterday. The Ministry of Interior last week announced it would be forming 26 working groups to investigate allegations of fraudulent prints on a previous CNRP petition.
Yim Sovann, CNRP spokesperson, decried the latest push against the CNRP’s new petition as “political discrimination”.
“[The petitioners] love justice, they cannot stand still, they cannot keep quiet. The people who create injustice in society, they are the ones causing turmoil,” he said.
Additional reporting by Lay Samean and Erin Handley