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Investigation continues in anti-government shirt case

A Khmer People Power Movement supporter wears a newly printed shirt bearing the party slogan in Battambang province
A Khmer People Power Movement supporter wears a newly printed shirt bearing the party slogan in Battambang province. KPPM

Investigation continues in anti-government shirt case

The owner of a Siem Reap printing shop and one of his staff remained in police custody yesterday after the business was raided on Monday night for printing polo shirts with anti-election slogans.

Five hundred shirts of a 1,000-piece order from the Khmer People Power Movement – a US-based, self-proclaimed “civil political movement” – were seized by police and a court prosecutor that evening.

Two alleged Khmer People Power Movement activists were also arrested in Banteay Meanchey province on the same day for transporting the same shirts along with KPPM logo-emblazoned watches and radios meant for donation to villagers.

Siem Reap Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Chhoun Sophanha said the investigation was ongoing and that authorities in Siem Reap were working with those in Banteay Meanchey.

“We are cooperating to find out who [exactly] are the members of [the KPPM],” he said.

He added that police were questioning the Siem Reap arrestees to determine whether they were simply carrying out a commercial order or if they are members of the KPPM.

The movement has previously been likened to a terrorist group by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

KPPM head Suon Serey Ratha told the Post yesterday that the Banteay Meanchey arrestees, whom he identified as KPPM activists Buon Long and Seng Sok Meng, were supposed to be transporting the items to villages in Malai and other districts.

“We deliver T-shirts all over the country, not just in Banteay Meanchey but in Kampot, Takeo, Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri and other places,” he said, adding however, that many KPPM activists in the Kingdom were “living in fear”.

Hong Chantha, the wife of Seng Sok Meng, said she was taken to the police station with her husband for questioning after police raided their Poipet home and found some of the items.

“My husband worked as a tour guide for foreigners and also as a delivery man for some businesses, but I am not sure if he was involved in any political party,” she said.

KPPM head Ratha said his group had been in contact with the men’s families and had written to foreign embassies and NGOs for support. He added that despite the raid on the Siem Reap shop, the KPPM would continue to print the offending shirts in Phnom Penh.

A decision to release the print shop arrestees could occur overnight, Sopanha said, though it was likely to be delayed until today.

Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Kheng Sum said he could not comment on the arrests, but his deputy Khoun Bunhong said that three people, not two, were arrested on Monday, before declining to comment further.

A number of local police officials also refused to comment on the case.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG AND CHHAY CHANNYDA

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