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Cambodian opposition candidates debarred from local polls

Around 150 from Candlelight and other parties have been delisted for the June 5 commune council elections

Cambodian opposition candidates debarred from local polls

A Cambodian voter dips his finger in a bottle of ink after casting his vote during the country's sixth general election in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 12, 2022 05:19 AM GMT

Updated: April 12, 2022 05:26 AM GMT

Cambodia’s emerging opposition Candlelight Party has urged the national election body to reinstate candidates debarred from contesting the June 5 commune council elections.

The request came at a meeting between National Election Committee (NEC) secretary-general Tep Nytha and Candlelight Party vice-president Son Chhay after some 150 candidates were denied the opportunity to contest on grounds that they were illiterate and had forged documents.

These candidates had falsified documents by forging fingerprints and signatures because they did not know how to read and write in Khmer, NEC claimed.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea asserted that the delisting of candidates from the Candlelight and other parties was based on law and the decision cannot be changed.

“The NEC has cooperated with the Ministry of Interior to facilitate the activities of political parties and has issued a joint directive to local authorities. All party activists must abide by the law,” Puthea was quoted as saying by the Khmer Times.

The NEC further urged the 17 political parties to be tolerant while campaigning after claims of intimidating tactics by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and ongoing court cases involving the outlawed Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the poll but CPP rejected the allegations of intimidation, claiming the Candlelight and other opposition parties were building a case to reject the results in case they perform poorly at the ballot box

More than 150 individuals are facing charges of treason and incitement related to a failed bid by exiled CNRP leader Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia in late 2019 and stage a popular uprising.

In November, CNRP activist Sin Khon, 30, was hacked to death by a group of men armed with knives and swords as Phnom Penh was winding down its annual Water Festival.

Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the poll but CPP rejected the allegations of intimidation, claiming the Candlelight and other opposition parties were building a case to reject the results in case they perform poorly at the ballot box.

The June 5 polls will elect officials for 1,652 communes made up of clusters of three to 30 villages.

Meanwhile, the governor of Kampot province last week ordered all schools to display a picture of Hun Sen in every classroom, saying he wanted to “plant a culture of gratitude” among the students.

Governor Mao Thonin said: “Every classroom must have one, and after I mention it … I will go check … and I will go to check all education centers and classrooms. Do you understand?”

He also said teachers should be grateful as well “because teachers’ salaries are very much due to Samdech [Hun Sen’s official title] also. These are the gold and diamond words, the soul and life of the nation, and together we should use them."

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