Po­lice warn boy­cott FB group

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Mech Dara

PO­LICE said on Tues­day that they will pick up mem­bers of a Face­book group in­volved in the “Clean Fin­gers Cam­paign” that pro­motes a boy­cott of next month’s na­tional elec­tions.

How­ever, po­lice merely planned to “ed­u­cate” the group for now, but warned that if the group con­tin­ued its ac­tiv­i­ties, the author­i­ties would be forced to take le­gal ac­tion.

Na­tional Po­lice spokesman Kirt Chan­tharith said the force will seek out the group which is ac­tively look­ing for oth­ers to join its elec­tion boy­cott.

He em­pha­sised that “we will seek them out in or­der to ed­u­cate them di­rectly, as such ac­tions are il­le­gal”.

Chan­tharith said: “The

cam­paign at­tempts to per­suade oth­ers. Un­der the law, it is the equiv­a­lent to pre­vent­ing peo­ple from vot­ing. Post­ing mes­sages meant to pro­voke peo­ple not to vote is il­le­gal.”

Ar­ti­cle 142 of the Law on the Elec­tion of Mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly says it is il­le­gal to “de­ter” ci­ti­zens from reg­is­ter­ing to vote, or to cause “con­fu­sion re­sult­ing in the loss of con­fi­dence in the elec­tion”.

“If they don’t in­tend to stop peo­ple from vot­ing, then why did they post such mes­sages? Whether mem­bers of the group vote or not is their busi­ness. But it is il­le­gal for them to ap­peal to oth­ers not to do so.

“We will as­sign po­lice of­fi­cials to go and ed­u­cate them that such ac­tions are il­le­gal and must not con­tinue. But af­ter do­ing so, if the group still con­tin­ues with their ac­tions, then the law will not tol­er­ate it,” Chan­tharith said.

T h e Fa c e b o o k g r o u p’s ac­tions come on the heels of for­mer op­po­si­tion leader Sam Rainsy’s call for Cam­bo­di­ans to boy­cott the elec­tions, claim­ing it is fake and il­le­git­i­mate due to the ab­sence of a vi­able op­po­si­tion party.

Mean­while, the rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) dis­trib­uted a leaflet say­ing that Rainsy’s ac­tions were an at­tempt to de­stroy the King­dom to serve the am­bi­tions of for­eign­ers.

A Face­book user named Som Raksa posted a picture of him­self sleep­ing in a hammock on Tues­day and wrote: “On 29 July, busy with sleep­ing, can­not go to vote” next to an­other picture en­ti­tled “29 July 2018 Clean Fin­gers Cam­paign” .

“Clean Fin­gers” refers to the name Rainsy gave to his boy­cott move­ment, which in turn refers to the ink on a fin­ger one re­ceives af­ter vot­ing.

An­other Face­book user named Ma Chetra wrote on Mon­day: “[I] am not happy with the dis­so­lu­tion of the CNRP and the dis­so­lu­tion of com­mune coun­cil and law­mak­ers.

“See­ing that it is too un­just, I de­cide not to go to vote, if [you] want to con­tinue to abuse, it is up to you.”

Long Bota, for­mer law­maker of the court-dis­solved CNRP who lives abroad, said on his Face­book page on Mon­day that vot­ing “means you let the regime of Hun Sen con­tinue to de­stroy the coun­try”.

Ou Chan­rath, an­other for­mer CNRP law­maker, wrote on his Face­book on Thurs­day last week that, “Not go­ing to vote is not il­le­gal. Threat­en­ing peo­ple to go to vote is il­le­gal. With­out CNRP, I will not go to vote.”

Sam Kuntheamy, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Neu­tral and Im­par­tial Com­mit­tee for Free and Fair Elec­tions in Cam­bo­dia, ex­pressed sup­port for the author­i­ties’ ac­tion to ed­u­cate peo­ple first.

He said it was a good move be­fore tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against Face­book users who posted mes­sages and pictures call­ing for an elec­tion boy­cott.

How­ever, he de­fended the Face­book mes­sages and pictures, claim­ing that “they are just an ex­pres­sion of free speech and wouldn’t cause prob­lems”.

Kuntheamy said: “First, we should ed­u­cate peo­ple who post such mes­sages so they be­come aware of the con­se­quences and le­gal chal­lenges they face.

“Af­ter that [author­i­ties] can take le­gal ac­tion in ac­cor­dance with the law, even though it does not ex­plic­itly say that any ac­tiv­ity re­lated to stop­ping peo­ple to vote is il­le­gal. It’s a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

He said such mes­sages on so­cial me­dia have no effect. It is just the opin­ion of an in­di­vid­ual or small group. “No one is forc­ing oth­ers to fol­low what they say,” Kuntheamy said.

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