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Opposition councillor arrested after posting Facebook live dismissing PM’s defection offer

A screenshot from a live video posted to Facebook by Pailin Commune Councillor Chhun Sithy.
A screenshot from a live video posted to Facebook by Pailin Commune Councillor Chhun Sithy.

Opposition councillor arrested after posting Facebook live dismissing PM’s defection offer

An opposition Pailin commune councillor was arrested on Tuesday shortly after he posted a video on social media rejecting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s offer to CNRP officials to jump ship and join the CPP in anticipation of the party’s potential dissolution.

On Sunday, the premier said CNRP defectors would be welcomed into the ruling party’s fold and be able to keep their jobs, an offer very few councillors have accepted so far.

A day later, Stung Kach Commune Councillor Chhun Sithy live-streamed his rejection of Hun Sen’s offer on his Facebook account. He was arrested less than 24 hours later and was still being questioned at the Pailin Provincial Court last night. Authorities would not confirm yesterday whether the video was linked to Sithy’s arrest.

“I am a commune councillor and would like to send this message to Mr Hun Sen that I don’t want his 570,000 riel [councillor] salary. I don’t even want $570,000,” Sithy says in the video.

“Mr Hun Sen, please don’t think that you are the most clever person. Sometimes, the most clever man is the most ignorant man,” he adds.

Stung Kach Commune Chief Pich Borin said Sithy called him for help on Tuesday afternoon prior to his arrest. When the chief arrived at the scene, Sithy was flanked by many police officers and en route to the provincial police headquarters, he said.

“I asked for an arrest warrant and they told me that they did not have one. They got the order from the prosecutor,” he said.

Commune and district police refused to comment on the arrest, with Deputy Provincial Police Chief Y Kimsean only confirming that Sithy was being questioned by the court.

Toch Sopheakdey, head of the prosecutors’ office at the provincial court, said Sithy’s commune colleagues had filed the complaint, but wouldn’t detail the nature of the grievance.

“We have not decided [charges] yet. We have a lot of questions. They just filed it after he posted a video,” he said, without confirming if the video in question was Sithy’s Facebook rejection of Hun Sen’s offer.

According to a Fresh News article yesterday, Sithy was arrested on accusations of taking private pictures and audio that violated the privacy of individuals, of inciting to discriminate and insulting Hun Sen, though court and police officials would not confirm these allegations.

Speaking to garment workers in Phnom Penh yesterday, Hun Sen also extended his commune councillor amnesty to district and provincial councillors, calling it a “win-win policy” in light of the CNRP’s imminent dissolution.

“We do not want to have an impact on people who knew nothing,” he said, referring to the CNRP’s alleged plot to overthrow the government. “We welcome provincial, municipal and district and commune councils who wish to continue their work to come and live with CPP.”

However, Chea Chiv, Battambang provincial councillor, said any move to the CPP would violate the trust of those who voted for him.

“It is a contrast from the will of the voters . . . if I change this will, it means that I betrayed the will of people voting for the party,” he said.

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