The Interior Ministry has called on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to change its campaign slogan ahead of local elections scheduled for June.
The government claims the slogan violates the “spirit” of the constitution and election laws.
In a letter to the CNRP on March 22, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the slogan, which calls for commune chiefs “who serve the party” to be replaced by those “who serve the people”, goes against the spirit of multiparty democracy, without elaborating.
Kheng added that he hoped the CNRP would act “responsibly”.
Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, declined to explain how the slogan put the party in breach of the law.
“It’s not the decision of the Interior Ministry. It depends on the law of Cambodia,” he said.
The slogan was devised at an extraordinary party conference held in early March, the legality of which the government is also disputing because under the CNRP’s internal rules, which are not legally binding, it should wait 18 months after the resignation of a president before holding a congress.
Sam Rainsy, the former president, stepped down in February, making way for the former deputy president, Kem Sokha, to assume the role.
“We have no rights or power to force the [party] to change it [the slogan],” Sopheak said. “We are only telling them and applauding them for their wrongdoing. It’s not a national affair.”
Despite Sopheak’s comments, the government has threatened to take the CNRP to court if it does not change its campaign slogan and reverse its leadership election.
Yim Sovann, CNRP spokesman, declined to comment on Kheng’s letter, saying he would wait for a meeting with officials later this month before entering the fray.
Hang Puthea, National Election Committee spokesman, said the body did not currently have jurisdiction over the party slogan.
“If we get a complaint from a party, the NEC will consider it,” he said.