An activist for the League for Democracy Party was halted by police in Ratanakkiri province for broadcasting political messages over a loudspeaker on Tuesday, in what one election monitor said constituted a “double standard” and “an abuse of power”.
O’Chum district deputy police chief Chan Than said ice block seller Sieng Piseth, 27, was stopped on his motorbike by police for peddling his political message along with his wares.
“We stopped him because it affects the other political parties,” Than said, noting that the activity was taking place outside of an official campaign period.
“If he just picked up a CD along the way and played it to see what it was, that would be OK. But he is an activist. So, we let him sign a contract promising to stop doing that.
”Than warned if Piseth did it again, police would confiscate the loudspeaker.
“If he wants to play it, he should just play it behind closed doors or use earphones,” he said.
Piseth and LDP leader Khmem Veasna could not be reached yesterday, but Koul Panha of election watchdog Comfrel slammed the move.
“It’s not only a double standard; it’s also a problem of abuse of power. There’s no law that authorises them to do that, to harass people,” he said.
While Cambodia has brief official “campaigning” periods just prior to elections, Panha said people had the right to publicly discuss political ideology and educate others about elections at any time.
“You have the right to give a political message or enter a political debate,” he said.
Indeed, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and many other high-ranking officials, routinely use public addresses to sing the praises of his Cambodian People’s Party, while opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders do much the same on frequent province trips.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ERIN HANDLEY