Ratanakkiri's chief prosecutor said yesterday he was assessing a complaint against two reporters from the Cambodia Daily lodged with the court by a commune chief and two villagers who accused the journalists of incitement for a seemingly routine interview about the election campaign.
Speaking by phone, Chea Pich said he had received the complaint and had yet to make a decision on whether to take action against Daily Associate Editor and Canadian national Zsombor Peter and Cambodian reporter Aun Pheap.
Pich said he had heard villagers had decided to drop the complaint but noted he had not received a letter to that effect.
“I am now looking at the Law on Commune Elections. Article 171 of the law is relevant, but I have not decided what the next action is,” he said.
Article 171 of the Commune Election Law proscribes fines of up to $5,000 for several offences, including compromising the secrecy of a vote, obstructing people from casting a ballot and “causing confusion that leads to a loss of trust” in the election.
The complaint is one of two that arose following the reporters’ interview last Monday in O’Yadav district’s Pate commune with opposition Commune Chief Rmam Yout, who in April appeared to throw his support behind the ruling Cambodian People’s Party after being left off the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s ballot.
Yout, along with villagers Sev Born and Rocham Ye, lodged letters both with the O’Yadav district governor and the provincial prosecutor’s office.
The former complaint accused the reporters of coming with “bad intentions”, and was subsequently passed on to the Commune Election Committee, which deemed it resolved after the complainants said they no longer wanted to pursue it.
The second complaint was made last Monday, according to dates on the document.It accuses the reporters of “inciting us to support the opposition”, leaving them vulnerable to “tricks” by political rivals and compromising the secrecy of their vote, though one of the complainants acknowledged in a previous interview that he had declined to answer questions on that subject.
Reached yesterday, Ratanakkiri PEC Director Pen Chhundy said he had not yet received the complaint but said the three-day deadline to lodge a complaint as per procedure had expired, meaning no further action would take place.
Speaking by phone, the Cambodia Daily’s General Manager Douglas Steele said he thought the matter would be put to rest. “I don’t think this is going anywhere,” he said.