The National Election Committee yesterday announced that an appeal hearing will be held tomorrow for five former opposition party members who were fined $2,500 each by the Battambang Provincial Election Commission for their involvement in an election boycott campaign.
NEC spokesman Dim Sovannarom said the hearing will focus on the Battambang Provincial Commission’s decision to fine them.
“The NEC will conduct a hearing on Wednesday,” Mr Sovannarom said. “The accused persons are appealing against a provincial commission decision.”
Last month, five former opposition officials were fined for obstructing people’s right to vote over a Facebook post supporting a boycott campaign led by Sam Rainsy.
Chea Chiv, one of the accused, said at the time that he was found guilty of violating article 142 of the Election Law after a complaint was filed by a CPP deputy commune chief.
The other four were identified as Kruy Kimsaing, Pov Tang, Mang Chhun and Thong Saroeun.
When asked about his attendance on Wednesday, Mr Chiv said that he will not attend the hearing, and instead will appoint a lawyer in his place.
“I stand by my decision because freedom of expression is guaranteed in the constitution, it’s not up to the NEC,” Mr Chiv added.
Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer representing the accused, said that he is prepared to face the NEC.
“My clients filed an appeal because there was no supporting law against what they did,” Mr Sokong said. “They just showed their finger, they didn’t commit any violence or actually prevente people from voting.”
Last month, the five former opposition officials were accused of incitement in complaints filed by the CPP deputy commune chief.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said at the time that he would have the CPP commune chief drop the complaints if they apologised and promised to end election boycott calls.
Mr Chea said that he could not apologise because he believed that he and his friends had exercised their right to freedom of expression.
“I did nothing wrong. I will only be responsible for what I have done wrong,” he said. “I do not think that expressing my opinion and announcing that I will not vote is wrong. I did not threaten anyone or incite anyone to do anything illegal.”
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to Cambodia Rhona Smith before the election called on the government to respect people’s right to freedom of expression, including those calling for an election boycott.
In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement slamming Ms Smith for her ignorance.
“It appears that her call is supportive to a coordinated campaign of Mr Sam Rainsy and members of the legally-dissolved CNRP which seeks to sabotage a democratic contest in Cambodia,” it said. “[She] seems to lose sight of the dangerous populism of Mr Sam Rainsy and his squad.”