The National Election Committee yesterday said that five more former opposition party members have been fined over their roles in encouraging voters to participate in a boycott campaign, this time in Kampot province.
The NEC said former CNRP members Kov Yitlay, Suong Sran, So Seng, Pen Chhem and Morm Sothy were fined $2,500 each by the Provincial Election Commission on July 30, noting that they filed an appeal to the NEC on Monday.
Their case follows a similar one in Battambang, where five former CNRP members were also fined $2,500 on July 26 for supporting a boycott campaign prior to the election. Their appeal will be heard by the NEC today.
NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida said yesterday that the five former oppostion members in Kampot province will likely have their appeal heard tomorrow.
Mr Sorida said all five men were found guilty of violating article 142 of the Election Law after a complaint was filed by a CPP deputy commune chief.
“Only the NEC can make a decision on whether or not the case should be dropped,” Mr Sorida said. “There’s a way to reduce their fines, but that depends on the severity of their involvement.”
After the case in Battamabng, Interior Minister Sar Kheng suggested that the cases could be dropped if the men apologised and stopped their activity.
Mr Sorida also made the suggestion yesterday for the five members in Kampot.
Tae Chinnarith, head of the Provincial Election Commission in Kampot, said the complaints were filed on July 26 after the men encouraged about two dozen social media users to boycott the election.
“They admitted running the clean finger campaign in the province,” Mr Chinnarith said. “They didn’t think that their action was against the law. The PEC decided to charge them with obstruction and fined them $2,500 each.”
Sam Sokong, a lawyer representing the defendants, said that the NEC will likely not drop the charges.
Mr Sokong noted that many other former opposition members faced potential fines in Siem Reap, Kep, Preah Vihear, Preah Sihanouk, Svay Rieng, and Takeo provinces over boycott calls, but saw their cases dropped after apologising and ceasing their activities.
Mr Sokong said he plans to point out that it is not against the law to encourage others to abstain from voting during the appeal hearing.
“I think my clients just exercised their rights to express their opinion,” he said. “It’s not illegal to not vote or encourage others to abstain.”
“Based on those facts, they’re not guilty,” he added. “However, considering that they are former opposition members, I have less hope.”