The National Election Committee yesterday said that former opposition officials in Kampot province found guilty of obstructing the election process by participating in a boycott campaign on social media will likely have their fines dropped.
The five men, Kov Yitlay, Suong Saran, So Seng, Pen Chhem and Morm Sothy, were fined $2,500 each by the Kampot Provincial Election Commission on July 30 after they were found guilty of violating article 142 of the Election Law.
The NEC was to hold an appeal hearing for the five yesterday, but decided to cancel it and instead hold a closed-door meeting today to determine their fates, said NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida.
Mr Sorida noted that the former opposition party officials were only accomplices in a boycott campaign aiming to undermine the polling process.
Mr Sorida said the campaign brought negative consequences to the election and increased the number of spoiled ballots.
Invalid ballots during last month’s national election ballooned to nearly 600,000, compared to about 100,000 in the 2013 election.
Mr Sorida said that the men faced the same predicament as Pov Tang and Mang Chhun, ex-opposition councillors in Battambang province, who had their fines stricken by the NEC following an appeal hearing on Wednesday.
“The five men in Kampot did not directly post photos on Facebook. Instead, they were tagged in posts uploaded by other former CNRP officials to encourage voters to participate in a boycott campaign,” he said. “That’s why the NEC proposed to have their fines eliminated, although their charges made by the Provincial Election Commission stand.”
Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer representing the five men from Kampot, said that he is pleased with the NEC dropping his clients’ fines, noting that there was no way for them to pay.
“Although they were supporters of the campaign that was initiated by the former opposition CNRP, they are just ordinary people,” Mr Sokong said. “They are poor, and it’s hard for them to pay the fines. I am happy that the NEC will likely eliminate their fines.”
On Wednesday, the NEC decided to uphold charges against another five former opposition officials in the province of Battambang for the same charges.
The NEC upheld the $2,500 fine for Chea Chiv, former head of the CNRP in Battambang, while Kruy Kimsaing and Thong Saroeun had their fines dropped to $1,250 each. Mr Tang and Mr Chhun had their fines eliminated.