Cambodia’s exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has called for a boycott of the upcoming general election in July if the Cambodia National Rescue Party is not allowed to contest the vote.
The CNRP was dissolved in a Supreme Court ruling in November after its leaders were accused of plotting with foreign powers to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
"I call on all my Cambodian fellow compatriots who believe in democracy to boycott the 29 July 2018 elections if the CNRP is not allowed to participate. I also call on national and international observers to refrain from ‘observing’ an electoral farce with a foregone conclusion," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Apparently, in response, the government-aligned National Election Committee warned of hefty fines and criminal proceedings for anyone preventing voters from casting a ballot or causing the electorate to “misunderstand and lose faith in the election”.
Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, added that legal action would be considered if calls for an election boycott continued.
Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said Rainsy’s appeal to voters was “in vain”, adding that turnout was expected at between 60 and 70 percent.
"No one is crazy to follow him, let him be crazy alone and wandering across the world all by himself. Cambodian people will not be crazy with him."
Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College, Los Angeles, said the calls for a boycott were not surprising given that the CNRP had been dissolved and could not compete in the election.
“The only other option for Sam Rainsy and or Kem Sokha is to tell voters to cast their vote for either the Candlelight Party (formerly Sam Rainsy Party) or the Human Rights Party or a third party (Grassroots Development Party or whatnot),” he said in an email.