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Opposition Activists Arrested Amid Campaigning

  • Kong Sothanarith

Tep Nytha, Secretary​ General of NEC, talks to journalists at a press conference in the election committee's headquarters.

Tep Nytha, Secretary​ General of NEC, talks to journalists at a press conference in the election committee's headquarters.

At least two activists for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have been arrested in Kampot province, accused of illegal acts of deforestation.

Hong Viravuth was arrested in Phnom Penh on June 25 and taken to detention in Kampot. Four days later, Sou Tourn was arrested. Both men were known supporters of the Rescue Party.

Activists say the arrests clearly targeted the men because of their political affiliation, as parties campaign for the July 28 elections.

“They were arrested because they are involved with the CNRP,” said Yun Phally, an investigator for the rights group Licadho who is based in Kampot.

“This was politically motivated,” said Chea Poch, head of the Rescue Party’s working group for the province.

However, Kampot Governor Khoy Khun Hour said the arrests were not political.

“They were arrested for flagrant offenses,” he said.

Opposition officials say the arrests are among ongoing election campaign period violations.

The National Election Committee has so far received 35 separate complaints of election irregularities, from knocked over signs of contesting parties to the prohibition of some parties to campaign in public places. The NEC says it is working to resolve the complaints.

Authorities say they have to be wary of public safety and security and do no allow campaigning near markets, where activists and campaigning supporters are not allowed. Critics say these prohibitions are not being equally enforced for ruling Cambodian People’s Party supporters.

Hang Puthea, head of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said election campaign violations can lead to disagreements about the results of the election, in which more than 9 million Cambodians are registered to vote.

Meanwhile, the royalist Funcinpec party on Wednesday held a large campaign rally in the capital, gathering some 2,000 supporters in the streets as they vie for votes in the July 28 elections.

Funcinpec is a partner to the CPP, though it only won two National Assembly seats of 123 in the 2008 elections.

Funcinpec’s political message centers around the protection of Cambodia’s monarchy, under which its supporters say Cambodia has greatly prospered in the past. Party leaders say they are also seeking to combat Cambodia’s endemic corruption.