Interior Minister Sar Kheng announced on Thursday that the government was creating a working group to analyze thousands of thumbprints attached to a petition the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party submitted to the Royal Palace on Monday.
The CNRP said it had collected more than 170,000 thumbprints of supporters who wanted King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene in the ongoing political turmoil that observers worry to plunge the country once more into violence.
Sar Kheng said the working group would be named the Investigation and Examination of Thumbprints Given by the Citizens to Petitions of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
A letter from Su Phirin, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, on Tuesday wrote to Sar Kheng requesting he form the working group.
Sar Kheng responded on Thursday saying his officers would conduct interviews with people listed on the petition in person to determine whether they had in fact signed it themselves.
Kem Sokha is accused of solicitation related to charges he used the services of a prostitute and also faces two separate defamation charges with compensation claims totaling $1.3 million.
Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, said the government was wasting resources that would be better spent on issues such as border protection and poverty reduction.
“All these issues are the issues that we have to think about, while this issue [the petition] is an issue between the people and the king,” he said, adding that the petitioners were exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Gen. Khieu Sopheak, Ministry of Interior spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
However, on Wednesday he told VOA Khmer that if found to have submitted forged thumbprints the CNRP would be culpable for “immoral activities” and defrauding the monarchy.
Meas Ny, a social development researcher, said the formation of the working group was an attempt to take revenge on the opposition party and would only make the situation more tense.
“I think this is just a waste of taxpayer money, taxpayers like me, on a useless activity that they [the government] think is a major issue,” he said.