Three former Battambang provincial opposition officials who were found guilty of participating in last year’s “Clean Finger Campaign” have paid their fines to the National Election Committee.
Chea Chiv, Kruy Kim Saing and Thorng Saroeun paid between $1,250 and $2,500 after the Constitutional Council upheld an earlier NEC decision that found the men guilty of violating Article 142 of the Election Law, which punishes those who discourage others to vote.
According to Suon Chamroeun, who aided the three officials, the fines were paid to Ven Porn, head of Battambang Provincial Election Commission.
“We had just a little bit of money – that was why we weren’t able to afford to pay the fines within 30 days,” Mr Chiv said yesterday. “We managed to have enough money after we asked our friends and supporters.”
He noted that they had no choice but to pay for the fines due to fear of further legal troubles after the NEC asked for arrest warrants to be issued.
“I am sure that if we did not pay the fines, we would have been arrested or trapped in some kind of trouble since the courts are under the control of politicians,” he alleged.
NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida yesterday said the money will be transferred to the state’s coffers and the case is now concluded.
“The NEC decided to close this case after the three men paid their fines,” Mr Sorida said. “It was a Constitutional Council decision, I do not care if the men accepted the decision or not. The fines are paid and the case is settled.”
Mr Sorida noted that United Nations’ Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith has requested an explanation over the fines.
“We are now detailing it now and we will send it to her this week,” he said.
Article 142 was heavily criticised last year by Ms Smith who said “calling for a boycott in a non-compulsory vote is permitted”.
Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged an outspoken opposition activist who was arrested on Wednesday and accused of attempting to overthrow the government.
Kong Mas, former deputy head of electoral and legislative affairs for the dissolved CNRP, was arrested after he made various Facebook posts criticising the government, including for incoming European Union sanctions.
Court spokesman Ly Sophanna yesterday said Mr Mas was charged with “insults” and “incitement to commit felony” and jailed pending trial.
The National Police said that after his arrest, authorities found evidence on his computer for plans to overthrow the government.
“[We] found evidence on his computer, with many important documents related to an attempt to overthrow the government on orders from Sam Rainsy,” it said in a post on its website yesterday.