Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday sentenced two high school teachers to a suspended six-month jail term each for stealing a bottle of indelible ink from a polling station in Por Senchey district.
Presiding Judge Pich Vicheathor identified the two as Chea Sotheary, 46, a teacher with Hun Sen Chumpouvoan High School and her colleague Ten Rattana, 42.
He said Ms Sotheary was the deputy communal election commission chief at polling station 1401 in Trapaing Krasaing Primary School in the district’s Trapaing Krasaing commune on the eve of election day. Mr Rattana was an observer at the polling station.
“Based on evidence and confessions, the court finds them guilty as charged,” he said. “Therefore, it convicts them to six months each but the term of their punishment shall be suspended.”
Judge Vicheathor said Ms Sotheary was charged with theft and Mr Rattanak with being her accomplice. Both were arrested on Saturday.
Colonel Yim Sarann, the district police chief, said that at about 10am on Saturday, Ms Soptheary took the bottle of ink from the polling station, put it in her handbag and left to go home.
He said observers at the station who had seen her put the bottle into her handbag told policemen on duty and she was arrested outside.
“She stole the bottle of ink from the polling station where she was entrusted to be the deputy CEC chief,” Col Sarann said. “After her arrest, police seized the stolen bottle from her.”
He added that Ms Sotheary confessed to the crime and that Mr Rattana had helped her steal the bottle.
During the trial on Tuesday, Ms Sotheary said that she stole the ink for family members and colleagues at school to dye their fingers without casting ballots. She said the teachers her school were told that their salaries would be cut if they did not vote.
She added that family members wanted to dye their fingers to avoid public criticism and so that they would not be accused of boycotting the election.
“I was angry at the chief of my village and other party officials who accused me of being a former CNRP activitist,” she added. “In revenge, I stole the ink so that my relatives and I could pretend to have voted although we did not want to.”
Ms Sotheary also claimed that Mr Rattana was the one who suggested that she steal the bottle because he also did not want to vote but wanted to show the school director and others that he did.
Mr Rattana, however, denied Ms Sotheary’s allegations.
“I told her that I would be busy on Sunday and would not go to vote,” he said. “But I did not tell her to steal the election ink.”