Twenty-six working groups from the National Police are to work with the Interior Ministry’s identification department to verify thousands of thumbprints on a petition to the King delivered by the opposition party last week.
National Police chief Neth Savoeun made the announcement in a statement yesterday as people in at least three provinces were warned by police to stop collecting thumbprints for the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s second petition, expected to be delivered on June 13.
According to the statement, 21 working groups will sort through the more than 170,000 names on the first petition – which called for the King to help resolve Cambodia’s political stalemate – while five specialist groups will verify their identities.
The groups, whose sizes were not revealed, will work with the Ministry’s General Department of Identification, which holds citizens’ thumbprint information as biometric data linked to their national ID cards.
“The committee is expected to complete the task in 30 days,” Savoeun said.
On May 30, CNRP lawmakers delivered their petition to the Royal Palace asking King Norodom Sihanmoni to step in and stop a slew of “politically motivated” legal cases targeting their members – including acting CNRP president Kem Sokha – NGO workers and an election official. Soon after, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Interior Minister Sar Kheng to investigate its veracity.
In response, the CNRP has embarked on another drive to get at least 200,000 thumbprints to reinforce that their position has popular support.
As was the case with their earlier efforts, grassroots supporters collecting thumbprints have found themselves in trouble with local authorities.
CNRP officials yesterday confirmed at least six people had been detained by police in Phnom Penh, Kampong Thom and Koh Kong in recent days.
The individuals had their petition materials confiscated and were made to thumbprint a document stating they would stop collecting names.
None were held for more than an hour. Local media also reported three similar cases in Siem Reap, Kampot and Takeo.
Though the CNRP officials in Kampong Thom said only four people in the area were questioned, the province’s police chief Chou Sam An said they had “educated” 17 people against collecting thumbprints.
Ung Un, a CNRP official in Koh Kong’s Khemarak Phumin town who was questioned by police, said officers confiscated his petition and made him sign a contract to cease his collection drive.