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Social media rumour claims one type of vote indicator is poisonous

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Prime Minister Hun Sen shows indelible ink on his right finger after voting at a polling station during commune elections in Kandal province on June 3, 2012. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP

Social media rumour claims one type of vote indicator is poisonous

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called for the arrest of those spreading fake news reports on social media that claim some of the indelible ink to be used in the July 29 national elections contain poison.

The prime minister then revealed that officials can locate those who share such articles on social networking sites within six minutes. He also referred to calls for a polls boycott as “treason”.

Despite implying that an NGO from the previous watchdog coalition, the “Situation Room”, could be behind the reports, a representative from Nicfec and a former lawmaker from the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) denied any links to the articles.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Cambodia-China Friendship Overpass in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen claimed the online reports were criminal and fraudulent, and that whoever planned them must be arrested even if they fled the Kingdom.

“This morning, I was informed about a fraud which becomes a crime for them. It is unforgivable. They said that there will be two types of black ink in use on election day – one bottle is a normal ink and the other contains poison, so whoever touches that ink will die in 24 hours,” he said.

The prime minister also reminded the public of opposition claims before the 2013 national elections that the ink could be cleaned off skin to allow double voting.

“This is a message to the same group of people who, five years ago, talked about erasable black ink . . . We can’t let them get away [with it]. We need to arrest the group’s leaders."

“Even though they escapedto other countries, we need to get them back to Cambodia. I will not allow [such talk]."

“This is a fraudulent statement planned to scare people into not going to vote, along with the other group that is calling on people not to vote,” Hen Sen said, referring to calls by CNRP members."

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who now heads the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), and other former CNRP leaders have been calling the coming polls a “fake election”.

‘It is our right to speak’

The prime minister said he had alerted the ministries of Defence and Interior to investigate the reports, and urged the people to inform the authorities if they knew of anyone encouraging an election boycott.

“You need to remember that your tricks ruin the country. I cannot let you get away [with them]. Even your party president [Kem Sokha] was arrested because of treason – and this is treasonous too,” he said to those urging a boycott.

Hun Sen said the government has technology which allows it to zero in on any Facebook user within “only six minutes”.

“Please, police and intelligence [officers], reveal all the technology we have to catch Facebook posters.

“It doesn’t take much time, only six minutes. You can’t even walk away from that location … No need to send police from Phnom Penh. We have the force there,” he said.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog Nicfec, which was a member of the Situation Room, expressed concern over the report about the ink, but he said his group had no hand in it.

“We don’t have any campaign . . . he just suspects it’s the work of election monitoring NGOs,” Kuntheamy said.

Mao Monyvann, a former CNRP lawmaker also denied any association with the social media posts, claiming he wasn’t worried about any action taken by authorities because he had not done anything wrong.

“The accusation is just an accusation . . . I am not afraid because I am an honest man. It is our right to speak however we want as long as it’s not illegal,” he said.

Political analyst Meas Ny said the prime minister’s threat would weigh heavier on Facebook users, who should be careful what they posted and shared. “This can intimidate or put pressure on Facebook users,” he said.

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