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Cambodia Threatens Legal Action Against Non-Voters

FILE PHOTO - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, foreground, shows his inked finger after voting at a polling station in Takhmau town, south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, July 28, 2013. Hun Sen was among the early voters Sunday, casting his ballot shortly after the polls opened in a national election his party is expected to easily dominate. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Interior Minister said Cambodians who were found to have taken part in the campaign would be fined up to 20 million riels (about $5,000).

The government has ordered authorities to arrest anyone who uploads images on social media as part of an opposition election boycott campaign.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was banned in November in a Supreme Court decision, has led a “Clean Fingers” campaign, a reference to the anti-fraud ink that is used to stain voters’ fingers on election day.

Sar Kheng, the interior minister, and ruling Cambodian People’s Party deputy president said Cambodians who were found to have taken part in the campaign would be fined up to 20 million riels (about $5,000).

Speaking to CPP members in Battambang province’s Banan district, Kheng said there was no precedent in the law to sentence campaigners to prison, but said that fines should be enforced.

“I already stated it clearly,” he said. “Don’t play with me. I only follow the law. We cannot detain them because the law did not say so, but we can fine them.”

Many opposition supporters, both in Cambodia and overseas, have previously posted photos online as part of the campaign.

Hang Puthea, National Election Committee spokesman, said the body had so far received five complaints related to the opposition boycott.

Meas Nee, a social affairs analyst, said threats to sue campaigners were “meaningless because we are 100 percent sure that the CPP is going to win. So too many threats will only worsen their reputation.”

Korn Savang, an election monitor with watchdog Comfrel, said legal threats against those taking part in the Clean Fingers campaign were a violation on citizens’ freedom of expression.

“This is where I worry for Cambodians in rural areas because they don’t understand these laws, even some authorities [don’t],” he said.