The Constitutional Council warned yesterday that anyone who fails to respect its decisions could face up to a year in prison in a statement issued just hours after the opposition announced it had sued a trio of high-ranking National Election Committee officials.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the party accused NEC president Im Suosdey, secretary-general Tep Nytha and director of operations Heu Rong of falsifying public documents, which they maintain swung election results in the ruling party’s favour.
Ket Khy, a lawyer for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said yesterday that he had ample evidence to support the accusations.
“We have [inculpatory] documents. We will submit them to the prosecutor when the court summons the plaintiffs to appear. We sue to find the justice that we want,” Khy said, adding that if the Phnom Penh Municipal Court dismisses the lawsuit then the CNRP will appeal.
In the statement issued by the party yesterday, the CNRP says it has evidence that the NEC falsified names on the voter list, faked identification documents, falsified the election results and “abused the law, regulation and procedure of the election”.
Suosdey said he was unconcerned by the suit and would happily clarify his position before the court if called for questioning.
“What I did previously was according to the law, according to my [NEC] procedures,” Suosdey said. “[The case] is nothing interesting.”
The CNRP has long maintained that the raft of irregularities, highlighted repeatedly by civil society, undermined the election results. But complaints over the irregularities were thrown out by the NEC. And when the party appealed to the Constitutional Council, it also ruled that the irregularities were not significant enough to warrant recounts or further investigation.
A week ago, just two days before the NEC released final election results confirming a Cambodian People’s Party win, the Constitutional Council threw out the last of the complaints, closing the door on further appeals and renewing calls for an independent investigation.
NGOs have since decried the council rulings, raising concerns over how ballot counts were verified during a series of hearings. But the council yesterday took pains to remind the public that its word was final.
“[These were] definitive decisions, closing [the door] for [further] protests, having the power to enforce above all powers – as stated in the constitution,” its statement notes.
In it, the council warns that any individual who fails to “respect the decisions of the Constitutional Council or block operations” can be punished by up to a year in prison, based on Article 36 of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Constitutional Council.
Legal experts and analysts said the Council’s warning wasn’t necessarily linked to the lawsuit, but likely intended as a warning to the populace at large.
“They just wanted to warn or make people fear their power. Many people have been very critical of their decisions,” said Koul Panha, director of election watchdog Comfrel.
Analyst Kem Ley said he, too, was doubtful the council would attempt to prosecute the CNRP over a lawsuit that appears to ignore the earlier rulings.
“Even the CPP needs a political compromise – they will not consider this case and will find a political compromise,” he said.
Council spokesman Uth Chhorn refused to explain the warning’s purpose.
“I don’t want to say how it is [aimed]. We have made the law; we should respect the law. And sometimes, when someone uses the law to resolve a problem, [other people] allege that they use the court to pressure,” he said.
The CNRP, for its part, appeared unconcerned about the pronouncements.
“We are not concerned at all. We have the right to speak out if we think that a decision is unfair for us,” spokesman Yim Sovann said.