Speaking during a meeting with stakeholders, officials from the National Election Committee (NEC) said it had requested the Ministry of Interior to take legal action against the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party and its former leader, Sam Rainsy, for calling on people to forgo voting in the July 29 national elections, labelling such calls a violation of the Constitution and the Election Law.
The meeting on Thursday, which was joined by the Constitutional Council, political parties, civil society organisations and representatives from the Japanese Embassy, included an announcement that Heang Kimseoun, deputy director of the Beehive Social Democratic Party, had asked the NEC to take action against the dissolved CNRP, whose former members have been calling for a boycott of the polls.
Kimseoun said he saw the CNRP’s message as propaganda aimed to “break the nation apart”.
A representative of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party who declined to give his name added that although small political parties were subjected to insults by Rainsy, who referred to them as “firefly parties” or “puppet parties”, there had been a huge increase in the number of them registering with the NEC.
Meanwhile, Mean Sati, an NEC member who led the meeting said the committee had asked the Ministry of Interior to prepare for potential legal action.
“We have informed the Ministry of Interior and requested them to take action,” he said.
NEC spokesman Dem Sovannarom told Fresh News that calling on people not to vote “affects public order and national security”.
He was referencing a petition, posted online earlier this month by Rainsy, calling on voters to boycott what he refers to as “sham” elections.
Not all parties condemned the actions of the now-disbanded CNRP. Hing Yoeun, deputy head of the Khmer Will Party, which was founded by the son of Kong Korm, a former senior official at the CNRP, said the message was within “personal rights”, but that he still urged the people to vote.
Yoeun encouraged former CNRP supporters to turn up and vote for his party.
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said he had not seen the request from the NEC, which claims to be a neutral entity, but the ministry was ready to cooperate.
“All legal decisions made by the NEC are supported by the Ministry of Interior,” he said. “We have the Election Law, which states that it is an offence to prevent people from casting their vote.”
Rainsy, responding to the comments via email from San Francisco, said: “I would like to remind Hun Sen’s government officials . . . that voting is the right of any citizen, but not voting is also their right, especially when they know there is no real choice . . . with the only objective being to legitimise a dictatorship”.
“In such circumstances, an election boycott is an act of passive resistance in a peaceful fight for democracy.”