NEC spokesman Hang Puthea has called recent statements from leaders of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) a “misinterpretation of the law” intended to “destroy the elections”.
He was commenting on former CNRP vice president Eng Chhay Eang’s Facebook post on Monday, which said: “The King is not going to vote. We are not going to vote, clean fingers is following the King.”
Eang had joined his ex-leader Sam Rainsy on Facebook in using the name of King Norodom Sihamoni, who, following the tradition of the head of state has never voted, as an example to boycott the July 29 elections.
Puthea stressed: “This is a misinterpretation of the law … an interpretation intended to destroy the elections using the King’s name as an excuse.”
“The King is [neutral]. Not only the King, but all nine members of the NEC are prohibited by law from voting.”
Joining in, Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said no matter how hard former members of the CNRP tried to misrepresent the facts, they cannot affect the people’s decision.
“There will be no effect [from these statements] as I expect people will decide for themselves on July 29. [The CNRP] will completely end on that day. It is already dead, but it continues to haunt,” he said.
He said Rainsy and Eang’s posts were an “insult” to the King, as no one can “dishonour” the monarch.
However, Sopheak declined to say how his ministry would act against the former CNRP senior officials.
Under the Kingdom’s lèse majesté law, a conviction for “insulting” the King can lead to between one and five years in prison, with a fine of up to 10 million riel (about $2,500).
Kong Monika, the president of the Khmer Will Party, which was created by former CNRP politicians, also expressed “unease” with drawing the monarch into political bickering.
“Regarding [Rainsy and Eang’s Facebook posts], I consider the King neutral. So politicians should not use him to mislead the people,” Monika said.
Rainsy had not responded to requests for comment as of press time on Tuesday.
Implying his support for Rainsy and Eang, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “I recall that the ruling elites have pledged to follow the enlightened wisdom of our King.
“If the King is not going to vote, there shouldn’t be anything wrong [with] following his example [or] calling on others not to do so."
“After all, the King is the country’s first citizen, is he not? Furthermore, not going to vote does not break any law,” he said.