The National Election Committee’s (NEC) trial council on Wednesday ordered two former Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) members to pay 5 million riel ($1,250) each while dropping charges against two others from the same party – all accused of involvement in the “Clean Finger Campaign” in Battambang province.
After examining the complaints, the council also upheld an earlier decision to fine another ex-member 10 million riel.
The five were identified as Chea Chiv, Thorng Saroeun, Mang Chhun, Pov Taing and Kruy Kim Saing.
The hearing was conducted after the defendants filed a complaint with the NEC against the Battambang provincial election committee’s (PEC) decision on July 6.
The hearing was presided over by NEC chief Sik Bun Hok in his capacity as trial council head.
Earlier, the Battambang PEC had ordered the five to pay 10 million riel for “prohibiting people from voting,” based on a complaint filed by Piv Hoy, second deputy commune chief from the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), in Anlong Vel commune, Sangke district.
“Those who are not satisfied with the decision can file an appeal to the Constitutional Council,” said Hok.
The fine for Chiv was upheld, while the penalty for Mang Chhun and Pov Taing were cancelled by the trial council.
Sam Sokong, the lawyer for the five, said the quantum of the fine should be reduced and he would consult other lawyers to prepare a complaint to be filed with the Constitutional Council.
He said PEC charged and fined the defendants 10 million riel each for preventing people from voting based on Article 142, which relates to laws on political parties.
But if the complaints were analysed, he said, they do not indicate that the accused were preventing people from voting and that it is the individual’s right to participate in politics as stated in the Constitution.
“If you compare the facts and the legal aspects, it does not mean they are preventing people from participating in elections as accused. I asked the trial council to pardon and drop charges against my clients because they have not committed any offence,” Sokong said.
Suon Chamroeun, a representative of the defendants, said they appealed to the NEC to drop the charges as the fine imposed by the PEC was huge, and the five came from financially poor backgrounds.
“This is a small matter, but they demand poor people to pay 10 million riel [each]. How can they come up with this amount of money? Five or 10 million riel is a lot of money ... Today, I want to demand justice,” Chamroeun said.
Ham Mony, the plaintiff ‘s lawyer, said raising the finger was a symbol of the Clean Finger Campaign which is similar to the “Sleep Home and Win” campaign.
This was a political campaign promoted by the former CNRP, which urged its ex-members to boycott the July 29 national elections. They also said the election was faked.
He further said raising the finger meant the five accused participated in a campaign to incite people to boycott the election.
The five members, including Chiv, who was a former CNRP executive in Battambang province, are on the list of 118 officials banned from political activity.