PHNOM PENH – Cambodia’s National Election Committee warned that anyone urging voters to boycott the upcoming general election or otherwise interfere in the polls could face criminal charges and be fined, in response to a boycott call by the head of the country’s now-dissolved opposition party.
Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled leader of what had been the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said that over the weekend voters should not vote if his party is not allowed to contest the July 29 election.
The party was dissolved in November by a court order after the government filed a complaint alleging it was involved in treasonous activities.
All of its lawmakers were tossed out of parliament and party leaders have been subject to legal harassment, with one founder in exile and the other in jail awaiting trial on a treason charge.
“I also call on national and international observers to refrain from observing an electoral farce with a foregone conclusion.”
The moves against the opposition, along with a crackdown on the media that has silenced almost all critical voices inside the country, is seen as an effort by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to ensure that it prevails at the polls, after signs of softening support in the last general election in 2013 and local elections last year.
The statement from the National Election Committee took note that “some individuals” urged voters and observers to boycott the election, having described it as illegitimate.
It said the planned participation of many small parties proved that the polls were legitimate and allowed opposition.
Critics have charged that the parties that plan to take part are either small or irrelevant, or creations manipulated by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
The statement warned that any people appealing to voters not to turn out to vote or cause trouble to the election process could be fined between five million riel (RM4,839) and 20 million riel (RM19,357), along with criminal penalties it did not specify.
Sok Eysan, the spokesman for Hun Sen’s ruling party, said the appeal by Sam Rainsy was useless and the voters will go to vote as normal, with at least 10 political parties taking part in the election.
“I have no worry at all in regard to the appeal of Sam Rainsy calling for the Cambodian people to boycott the election,” he said. — AP