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Council Upholds Fine Against Sam Rainsy

The Constitutional Council announced Tuesday it would uphold a 10 million riel fine, about $2,500, against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, for "insulting" the leaders of the Cambodian People's Party during the election campaign.

The fine stems from a decision by the Kampong Cham Election Committee ahead of the national election, in a province where Sam Rainsy gave speeches and referred to a Global Witness report on illegal logging.

The report, "Cambodia's Family Trees," implicates a number of high-ranking officials and relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen in illegal logging and corruption and was banned in the country following its publication.

The National Election Committee subsequently upheld the Kampong Cham committee's ruling to fine Sam Rainsy, but it denied a recommendation to disqualify him as a candidate.

The Constitutional Council upheld the NEC decision to keep Sam Rainsy as an eligible candidate.

Constitutional Council President Ek Samol said Tuesday after the hearing that the NEC had decided "in conformity with the law."

"I cannot accept the Constitutional Council's decision," Thach Setha, Sam Rainsy Party representative in the case, said. "It is not fair. I am very disappointed for the Constitutional Council, because [it] does not respect the law. The decision follows politics and the CPP will."

CPP lawyer Benson Samay said the ruling party accepted the decision, "because the CPP wants to have the opposition in Cambodian society."

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the council showed the complaint following the legal procedure.

"But the Constitutional Council should more clearly interpret the law," he said.