POLICE say a motorbike-taxi driver arrested in connection with the scattering of antigovernment leaflets in Phnom Penh on Wednesday has linked a second suspect to the Sam Rainsy Party, drawing denials from opposition officials.
Phnom Penh Municipal police chief Touch Naruth said yesterday that the man, arrested on Wednesday morning, told police that he gave a lift to a woman who scattered the leaflets near Wat Phnom at around 4am. Afterwards, the man reportedly gave her a ride to the SRP’s headquarters on Sothearos Boulevard.
“He confessed that he drove the scatterer to the Sam Rainsy Party. This is his answer, and we are continuing the investigation to find out about this suspicion,” Touch Naruth said.
He also said police were sceptical about the man’s claims that he did not know the woman when he gave her a lift.
“If they do not know each other why did they have appointment at 4:30am to scatter leaflets,” he said.
The leaflets, around 100 of which were distributed around Wat Phnom, contained strong anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of “selling the nation” to Vietnam.
Touch Naruth said the leaflets should be outlawed because they did not offer constructive criticism but instead “defamed” senior officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the allegation that his party was involved in the leafletting was “laughable”, since the SRP had plenty of legal platforms for criticising the government.
“There is no reason for the SRP to create leaflets like this. It is laughable that they accused us, and it is not reasonable,” Yim Sovann said.
“Do not be interested in this. If the government has acted wrong, throw it away.”
Chan Soveth, a senior monitor at the local rights group Adhoc, said that since the leaflets had not affected the King’s reputation or otherwise incited unrest, the authorities should educate the suspect and release him. “If this scattering of leaflets has not seriously affected the prime minister’s reputation and not damaged national security, they should release him,” Chan Soveth said.