The fallout from a confrontation between rival political party rallies in Takeo province last week escalated over the weekend, with five opposition members, including a commune chief candidate, receiving a court summons over the incident in Koh Andet district’s Prey Khla commune.
According to a letter issued by Takeo Provincial Prosecutor Tep Munin, Cambodia National Rescue Party candidate for Prey Khla commune Keo Eath, and opposition activists Sok Sang, Hem Korn, Chun Choeun and Morm Saroeun have been accused of defamation, incitement and insults, and were asked to appear in court on May 31.
The summons, issued on May 25 and received by the activists on Saturday, did not specify who had lodged the complaint.
However, a CNRP official said it was lodged by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, whose local official, Pech Chhim, has already lodged a complaint with the Provincial Election Committee over the standoff on May 20, which involved a heated exchange between groups of campaigners.
Reached yesterday, Eath criticised the lodging of a court complaint, saying election authorities should deal with the matter.
The CNRP candidate rejected any allegation of wrongdoing and said he would not attend the hearing, saying the complaint was “politically motivated”.
Explaining the incident, he said: “First they insulted me and I told them not to insult me or I would insult back. They accused our party of being a party that kills people, but I yelled back that we never kill anyone.”
Chhim and Munin were not reachable yesterday to discuss the court case.
According to the complaint about the incident to the PEC – which Takeo PEC Chief Nuon Saren said is still being investigated – Chhim, the deputy commune chief for Prey Khla, accused the CNRP members of intentionally blocking a ruling party march as it headed down a dirt road, which he alleged violated the election law.
The tense encounter is one of several alleged incidents of wrongful conduct filed with the NEC since campaigning began. Adviser to the NEC Keo Phalla said on Friday that 34 complaints had so far been lodged with authorities ahead of the June 4 poll, including 29 from the CPP and five from the opposition.
This is a significant drop from the same period during the 2013 national election, when more than 100 complaints were filed, NEC spokesman Hang Puthea added yesterday. However, the election atmosphere remains tense.
On Friday morning, four Buddhist monks – Loun Sovath, Prim Huon, Seng Nara and Nob Vanny – were briefly detained and had their phones confiscated during an opposition party rally in Oddar Meanchey.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Oddar Meanchey Deputy Provincial Police Chief Lek Sokha said his officers had reacted to a Facebook Live video by Huon accusing officers of harassing CNRP supporters, which he denied.
Sokha denied they had “detained” the group, despite a photo showing at least one of the monks being forcibly restrained by an officer. “We just invited the monks to a nearby pagoda to meet the provincial monk chief. After we deleted everything we returned their possessions.”
Sovath, however, denied they had made any comments that warranted what he called a “violation of our rights”.
“We used Facebook to broadcast true, fair and neutral information,” Sovath said.