The National Election Committee yesterday upheld charges against five ex-CNRP officials from Battambang province for their involvement in an election boycott campaign, but reduced some of their fines.
The five ex-CNRP officials were found guilty of violating article 142 of the Election Law after a complaint was filed by a CPP deputy commune chief last month over a Facebook post supporting a boycott campaign led by Sam Rainsy.
The Battambang Provincial Election Commission found them guilty and fined them $2,500 each on July 26.
The NEC held an appeal hearing yesterday at its Phnom Penh headquarters.
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. Pov Tang and Mang Chhun had their fines eliminated.
NEC president Sik Bun Hok said that Mr Chiv was an initiator of the Clean Finger Campaign which posed a negative effect on the election process.
Mr Bun Hok said that the four other men were just accomplices in the boycott campaign.
“The campaign posted on Facebook really affected the turnout rate and spoiled a number of ballots. We decided to uphold the charges although fines will be lessened for some. The decision is made with no criminal conviction. We allow the accused men to appeal against the NEC’s decision,” Mr Bun Hok said.
Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer representing the accused, said he will discuss it with his clients whether or not to appeal against the decision.
“The NEC should have dropped the charges. Reduction of fines is not enough. I think that my clients raising their fingers was just part of their freedom of expression that they would not go to vote. They are just ordinary people,” Mr Sokong said.
Mr Chiv said that he will appeal.
“It is unfair to me. I do not think it’s an illegal movement just to gather and post a photo saying that I’m not going to vote. I am sure that the NEC’s decision was politically motivated,” he said.
Last month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he would have the CPP commune chief drop the complaints if the accused apologised and promised to end election boycott calls.
Five other former CNRP officials are also set to attend an NEC appeal hearing today after being fined over the boycott campaign in Kampot province.