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CNRP’s ‘free Sokha’ signs taken down

Banners calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha are unveiled at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh last month.
Banners calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha are unveiled at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh last month. Heng Chivoan

CNRP’s ‘free Sokha’ signs taken down

Opposition officials in Pailin province have caved in to legal threats from provincial authorities, deciding to remove a banner calling for party leader Kem Sokha to be released from prison, while similar banners were subject to similar threats – and even removal – by local ruling party officials.

Ven Dara, chief executive for the Cambodia National Rescue Party in Pailin, said provincial Governor Kert Sothea informed the party in a letter that if Sokha was found guilty, officials could file a complaint against them for displaying the poster.

“We were not afraid,” she said, noting the banner was taken down on Saturday. “We just didn’t want to waste time on [the issue]. We were the ones who removed [the poster].”

Sothea confirmed that he had informed the CNRP he would not allow them to hang the banner at their office.

“We don’t want them to connect themselves with a private issue,” he said, without explaining how the banner was actually illegal. “An individual is an individual, the party is the party.”

Mao Vibol, head of the CNRP’s executive committee in Svay Rieng province, said the Svay Rieng district chief also told them to take down a banner of Sokha because he had committed an illegal act – though he has not been convicted. Vibol said he refused to take it down, and asked officials to show him a court verdict from Sokha’s case.

“My boss is in jail; I have nothing to be scared of anymore,” he said.

Sat Sin, deputy provincial chief for the CNRP in Stung Treng province, said that on Friday, Stung Treng district officials tore down a similar banner, which was hung at their office, without explanation.

Sokha was arrested and charged with “treason” last month, in what has been widely condemned as a politically motivated case.

Chin Malin, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said an individual has the right to hang a poster on private property, but that authorities can then decide whether it affects the public.

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