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Family of Detained Activist Exchange Votes for His Freedom

Members of Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) march on the street during a protest demanding a free and fair general election in Phnom Penh, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Five family members of an opposition activist detained for allegedly threatening a government official by phone say they have been banned from voting in exchange for his freedom.

Hong Virvuth was arrested in a sweep in Kampot province along with five other activists late last month. Officials at the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party say the arrests were an attempt to interfere with the activism of their supporters during the run-up to the July 28 elections.

Uy Sok, who is Hong Virvuth’s mother-in-law, told VOA Khmer Tuesday, said she was contacted by a man named Chum Bunthan, a representative of the ruling Cambodian’s People’s Party, who asked her, members of her family, and her son-in-law to abstain from voting.

“He asked the five of us in the family not to go vote, so that they could have confidence in us,” she said in a phone interview.

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Chum Bunthan declined to comment.

Both Chea Poch, head of the Rescue Party’s working group in Kampot province, and Yun Phally, an investigator for Licadho in the province, confirmed Uy Sok’s account.

Family members of other detained activists report similar offers by authorities, that they give up their votes in exchange for seeing their family members freed. Khoy Khun Hour, the CPP governor of Kampot province, has denied reports of the deals.

Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said that if the allegations are true, such deals are “unlawful.”